The evolving situation of the coronavirus lockdown of the Philippines has been fraught with confusion, dropped balls and anxiety. While the initial order to implement a strict home quarantine and suspension of businesses seemed to indicate that Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) had been exempted, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and the Philippine Amusement and Gambling Corporation (PAGCOR) have now said they must shut down as well.
The first indication that POGOs must completely stop operations came from Nograles late on March 17. He indicated that with the fully fleshed out details of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, POGOs were not exempted from the business shut down.
We reached out to our sources in the POGO industry on March 18 to determine if any order to cease operations had been received. They had indicated that none had come, and current work from home setups were continuing to operate.
The order became slightly more official and clear when PAGCOR also noted that POGO operations should cease on March 18. In their official statement, PAGCOR noted that “the skeletal workforce at POGO operating sites are no longer allowed.”Employees must remain in their places of resident, it went on to add.
For the POGO offices themselves, all maintenance work must be done remotely. It added that if personnel must physically maintain equipement, they should receive permits from the Inter-Agency Task Force.
“Our situation right now is different,” said PAGCOR Chairman Andrea Domingo. “While revenue generation is important in our operations, the health and well-being being of every Filipino is our immediate priority. By practicing the health protocols recommended by our Health Department, we can all help curb, if not stop the spread of COVID-19.”
What the statement does not explicitely note is if work from home arrangements are permitted for staff to continue operations of the POGO. The headline of the statement, “PAGCOR temporarily suspends POGO operations in Luzon,” would have one assuming all operations should cease.
But our sources at several POGO service providers told us that they understood this was to shut down physical office spaces, not operations entirely. None of our industry contacts have informed us that operations would cease entirely. “To me it seems this is directed to those who still are operating office based,” said one source. “They cannot at all provide shuttle services for their employees. A hard no for them to operate.”
They added, “This doesn’t affect us because our operations are done purely remotely. There’s no harm to our employees, plus we keep our livelihood.”
Several POGOs jumped to work from home operations as soon as it was clear a strict quarantine was on the way. But as we’ve discovered previously, some did not have that choice, and may be scrambling at this hour.