PORT FOLIO Column: Ramon Cuyco Column

POGO VERSION 2.0—A Better Option

Dec 27, 2022, 12:48 AM
Ramon Cuyco

Ramon Cuyco


THE world has shrunk. A borderless global order is on. Traditional border management is challenged by inter-state issues, made more complex by advances in technology. Our internal affairs—just like those of other countries, are no longer free from technological intrusions, by government or non-government entities, originating from Asian neighbors.

Just like the rest of the world, we have become vulnerable to offshore adventurism by oligarchic forces and their cabal. This is our new reality. Yet we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from the swirling convergences around us. We must adapt, we must adjust; lest we become victims of our isolationism. We cannot be isolationist in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment.

The Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO), a government program, has been misunderstood despite its great potentials, along the areas of revenue raising, job generation, skills exchanges, tourism, and countryside development.

POGO suffers from “reputational issue,” said the finance head, an assertion that is misplaced! The crimes committed by foreigners are not games-related, albeit committed by foreigners. These things happen just like in any other Asian nations—Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and the rest of the world.

Yet opposition to POGO see only the perceived negatives and magnify them anecdotally. They ignore the gains brought by the games, regardless of empirical proofs favoring continuance, even enhancement. Our police claim there is no rise in POGO-related crimes. But our solons’ overly- stretched crania perceive a link between POGO and the spike in crimes.

Our solons are good at crime optical presentation—yes there were crimes committed by foreigners against fellow foreigners. But just because the perpetrators and victims are holed up in dormitories, the dwelling place of gaming attendants they index the crimes as POGO-related. In Latin this is called non sequitur and in Tagalog: wala sa hulog.

POGO has been maligned from what the Finance chief calls as “reputational issues.” Assuming arguendo that there are, should we burn the house just to kill the rodents?

Should we ban the tourism industry just because some crimes were committed by tourists? Should we prohibit the sugar industry just because sugar hacienderos were reported to have oppressed the sacadas? Should we ban the practice of religion, or the propagation of faith simply because some pastors or prelates have abused the faithful? Should we close the plastic industry, just because used plastic litter everywhere and clog our esteros?

Or should we stop government operation simply because some government men are involved in crimes capitalizing on their government functions? Specifically, should we close Congress, just because some of our solons were openly involved in construction business? Should we abolish the police force—the drug enforcement agencies, simply because some police officers—or key enforcement officials, were involved in the illegal drug trade? Should we ban importation of essential commodities, simply because customs officials are ineffective in combatting smuggling?

During the Senate Session No. 39 of the 19th Congress, last December 14, 2022, our distinguished solons—a minority of them, albeit openly vocal, seemed in a quandary on what to do, or how to effectively address the crimes committed by foreign tourists against fellow tourists. Based on their pre-conceived notion that POGO is the root cause they chorused: it’s about time we ban POGO.

In college, our logic professors were wont to demonstrate thus: “When it rains it pours. The ground is wet. Ergo, it rained.” Non-sequitor, of course!

Applying this to the case of POGO, we can demonstrate thus: There is a noticeable hike in crimes committed by tourists. POGO workers are foreign tourists. Ergo, there is a need to ban POGO!

Never mind, if not all tourists are POGO workers; never mind, if tourism is the biggest industry there is in the entire world; never mind, if tourism creates jobs, generates billions in taxes, raises productivity, and substantially influences our gross domestic product (GDP).

How can our legislators ban an activity that is carried out mainly through the cyberspace? If we cannot even hold toe-to-toe with felons engaged in traditional crimes, can we expect our ill-equipped law enforcers to match wits and cross swords with highly sophisticated online games that are being carried out in virtual platforms?

The way to address their concerns is to convert POGO into a strategic and holistic development intervention calibrated to effectively address both the socio-political and security concerns attendant to the POGO, while optimizing the economic potentials through a revised and/or modified version of POGO, which is GOPO or globally outsourced productivity options. Or POGO VERSION 2.0.

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