PORT FOLIO Column: Ramon Cuyco Column


Part II

Jan 3, 2023, 1:06 AM
Ramon Cuyco

Ramon Cuyco


ESSENTIALLY, VERSION 2.0, is POGO in reverse — made more comprehensive in development perspective, minus the socio-political and security concerns of the current POGO.

This is a program-based mechanism aimed at tweaking and enhancing the current version where the reputation- burdened POGO is improved, upscaled, modified, or enhanced into what we may call: GAMING AGENDA TO MAXIMIZE ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY IN PROVINCIAL HUBS (GAMESPH).

GAMESPH offers multi-faceted social pluses deliberately overlooked by POGO critics. It can be redesigned holistically to maximize its social desirability, to be piloted in Mindanao thus MINDANOW:

Managing Security Risks. – We cannot manage what we cannot measure. Unless a voluntary compliance program for foreign migrants with imperfect documents is launched, the archipelago will remain highly vulnerable to unforeseen risks due to unaccounted foreigners. Overstaying tourists are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. So huge a number, a gargantuan job, so unimaginable risk. This program opens the door for undocumented migrant to legalize their overstay generating in the process additional revenue. With this, they can voluntarily surface and avail of this administrative legalization process.

n Inclusive Economic Opportunities. – While gaming-attendants will mostly be composed of mandarin-speaking foreign nationals who are preferred by offshore gaming afficionados, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), like barber shops, laundry shops, physical therapists, masseurs, and border guards, appurtenant to the ecosystem of this Program will strictly employ Filipinos, preferably those residing in the island of Mindanao.

n Non-traditional Source of Revenue. – With the government badly needing revenues — and its 2023 unprogrammed projects running to hundreds of billions endangered of being unfunded, the need for non-traditional sources of revenue comes at the most opportune time. Thus, the amount of revenue generated through gaming operations deserves to be revisited. Varying figures have been reported by the government even with only a modicum of monitoring by state regulators of POGO.

n Digitized Governance. – Digitized governance will determine which local government units (LGUs) in the Island of Mindanao can host a tourism-dedicated offshore gaming operation. All GAMESPH operations in revenue or lucrative Hubs in Metro Manila shall adopt a missionary hub in other parts of the Island of Mindanao—or even in some parts of the Visayas.

Digitized operation will ensure that rightful taxes due the government are collected on real-time. The reported P50-B taxes for the last 2 years preceding the pandemic which reportedly remained unpaid will thus be avoided.

Digitized operation will also make sure that all foreign migrants holding gaming-dedicated visa will be accurately accounted for within the Hub.

n Alien Migration Management and Social Reintegration. – Pending an amnesty program, this GAMESPH should suffice as voluntary compliance program for all overstaying tourists, provided they pay fines, penalties, and other surcharges.

With the Bureau of Immigration (BI) establishing satellite offices within the Hubs, all immigration services will be closely addressed thus ensuring the security concerns related to gaming operations. Unlike the current POGO, gaming-attendants will not be allowed to just travel anywhere in Mindanao, without securing travel authorization and “under-guarding” documents from the BI. All gaming-attendants found outside the declared or registered situs of licensed GAMESPH operations will be dealt with accordingly.

n Nationalized Trading in Goods and Support Services. – Within the fenced-in area of the GAMESPH sites or venues, the goods traded and services offered shall prioritize Filipino provisions, in keeping with the “Filipino First” imperatives of our laws.

Assuming only 5,000 gaming attendants are employed within a Hub, i.e., Samal Island Tourism Estate GAMESPH site, the job opportunities, the amount of goods traded, and the services that go with it will certainly impact on the economic sustainability of the Island of Mindanao—or the Visayas.

n Offshore Gaming Tax Monitoring. – A revenue collection officer of the BIR shall be stationed or co-located within the fenced-in Hub, together with other regulatory agencies operating under one roof through a whole-of-government approach, albeit separately and distinctly performing their mandates.

n Workers Welfare and Protection. – A mental and physical consultation lounge or facilities shall be maintained within the Hub to address the physical and mental concerns of the gaming attendants. Gym and wellness facilities shall also be operated within the Hub to respond to the requirements of the gaming attendants and business executives.

Gaming attendants within the Hub may be allowed to go out of the fenced-in areas, only upon prior clearance from the BI. This way, crimes committed by gaming attendants versus their fellow foreign migrants will not have to be attributed to the entire GAMESPH Program, let alone, attributed to the tourism industry.

GAMESPH is calibrated to eliminate the evils that are attendant to the current POGO system.

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