This is in response to the opinion piece titled “Siding with foreigners?” by Rev. Fr. Antonio Cecilio T. Pascual, in his column Servant Leader, published in BusinessMirror on June 5, 2020.
On behalf of the Accredited Service Providers Association of Pagcor (Aspap), the group of legitimate and compliant Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) Service Providers or PSPs in the Philippines, I would like to respond to this column to make certain clarifications.
We must emphasize that no preferential or special treatment is granted to the foreign employees of PSPs. From the start of the lockdown, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has been aggressive—with the help of local government units and other regulatory agencies—to ensure that all foreign and Filipino employees of PSPs are following the rules and guidelines set by the government.
PSPs do not have “makeshift medical facilities,” hidden or illegal hospitals that exclusively cater to foreign employees. Although there are company clinics within the establishments of PSPs, these are allowed and permitted by law. These clinics, like most company clinics, are there to attend to the immediate needs of the employees. This is not similar to the care and confinement administered by hospitals. In addition, these clinics are well aware and equipped with the necessary safeguards and health protocols to battle against Covid-19. If a Covid-19 case is determined, the employee must be referred to the Department of Health or a nearby hospital in accordance with the Inter-Agency Task Force’s (IATF) guidelines.
As to the testing that took place in Clark, Pampanga, this was done in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and other local officials using test kits purchased by Shidaikeji Technology Corp. Contrary to what was stated in the column, no one exhibited Covid-19 infections at the company clinic. Neither was it operating as a Covid-19 clinic, there being no positive Covid-19 case, Person Under Investigation or Person Under Monitoring in Clark.
Aspap understands the concern on the alleged late release of the test results of repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers taken by PCG. The inclusion of the foreign employees’ names in the test results was inadvertent and must not be translated as preferential treatment in their favor. As stated by PCG Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia: “The PRC did not distinguish between OFWs and the Chinese workers from Fontana, who were inadvertently included in their report.”
We are unaware of the circumstances in the testing conducted on the repatriated OFWs taken by PCG and forwarded to the Philippine Red Cross. Aspap is ready to work with PCG, PRC, and other health officials to improve and streamline the testing and confirmation process with utmost priority to the repatriated OFWs.
Anent the claim that PSPs continued to operate amid the quarantine, this is false. PSPs are in the process of complying with the guidelines set by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Once cleared, PSPs shall resume operations in compliance with health protocols issued by the government. Pagcor also conducts random inspection—together with the local government units—to make sure that nobody is working (during the lockdown) in their office sites.
As to the incident in Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Ekxinum explained that, as sublessee of the property, it has no control over the guards that met the inspection team who were advised to wait for a representative of Ekxinum. Due to closure of operations, no authorized personnel from Ekxinum was present and the inspection team left as they expected that said guards may enter and open the offices. However, it must be mentioned that this happened a day after an unmanned drone was sighted conducting illegal surveillance activities on Ekxinum, which may explain the heightened security. Regardless, Ekxinum informed SBMA that it was ready for an inspection anytime thereafter.
Aspap agrees with Rev. Fr. Pascual that there should be no special treatment for foreign employees who must be held accountable if they disobey Philippine laws and if they fail to pay proper taxes. Aspap is together with the government in shutting down illegal online gaming, known as Non-accredited Offshore Gaming Operators. Aspap supports all efforts in purging NOGOs since these endanger the progress and development of the country’s gaming industry that stands to raise billions in government funds, much needed now in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Aspap takes exception to broad generalizations made in media that may affect our legitimate PSPs.
Amid the confusion due to the proliferation of unverified stories and half-truths in the pandemic, it is important for media outlets and our journalists to be prudent in printing and repeating information. We are all concerned with the safety and welfare of everyone in our country, and the important thing now is for us to come together.
Atty. Margarita N. Gutierrez
Accredited Service Providers Association of Pagcor