MANILA, Apr 26, 2020, PhilStar. Philippine offshore gaming operators and other forms of gambling are not yet allowed even in areas under general community quarantine, Malacañang said Sunday. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque noted that POGOs are under the amusement and leisure category, which is considered non-essential because it is not related to health and food, The Philippine Star reported.
“That (POGOs) is under amusement and leisure so it is part of the negative list, along with schools, religious gatherings, kid industry, and tourism,” Roque told radio station dzBB.
“While POGOs can seek exemptions and authority from PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.), there is no recommendation yet from IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases),” he added.
The IATF is the policy-making body on the government’s COVID-19 response.
President Rodrigo Duterte has extended the enhanced community quarantine in “high-risk” areas Metro Manila, CALABARZON, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Albay, Catanduanes until May 15.
Benguet, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Antique, Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Cebu, Cebu City, Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, and Davao City were also placed under enhanced community quarantine but the government would study whether restrictions in these areas could be eased after April 30.
Other areas were placed in the “moderate” or “low” risk categories and are now under general community quarantine. Under the modified quarantine, non-leisure stores in malls may partially open, public transportation may operate at reduced capacity, some sectors are allowed to operate and some workers can go out and work in phases.
While POGOs are contributing billions to state coffers, they have been tied to illegal activities like money laundering, human trafficking, prostitution, tax evasion, kidnapping, and bribery of immigration personnel.
Last Friday, 53 people, including Chinese nationals and Filipinos, were arrested for allegedly violating quarantine measures by carrying out POGO operations in Parañaque City. They are facing charges for violating the Bayanihan Act.
Roque said the government would enforce laws against people who defy the measures being implemented to contain the coronavirus disease.
“We have the ‘Bayanihan to Heal as One Act’ and if you violate its regulations while we are under an emergency, you would face charges. The violation of the quarantine can serve as a basis to prosecute or punish anyone,” the Palace official said.