By Cip D.C. Cabrera
Leechiu Property Consultants chief-executive-officer David Leechiu at his office in Makati Shangri-La Retail Arcade. (Photo courtesy of Chinoy TV)
MANILA — Real estate broker David Leechiu threw caution in the wind against the call of some politicians to ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) saying it could be ill-timed because it could create a real estate crisis on top of other issues that the country is already facing.
In a statement, the chief executive officer of Leechiu Property Consultants stressed that while politicians are pointing to the reduced taxes that the industry has paid in recent years due to the slump in POGO operations, they are ignoring potential losses in other sectors that depend on the industry as well as the thousands of Filipinos employed in online gaming.
“You have poverty, where people who were eating three meals a day could now only eat one meal a day again. People who used to go to school to get college degrees are not able to do that now,” Leechiu disclosed.
“To top that all off, we’re going to get another economic driver—the POGO sector, which is so critical also to the economy—and we’re going to try and shut that down. This is not the time to shut things down. This is the time to increase the momentum of the economy,” he added.
The Leechiu Property CEO proposed that instead of shutting down the industry, the authorities should approach the problem from a law enforcement perspective and shut down those who are operating illegally.
“There are social ills, but the bigger social ills are unemployment, underemployment, and underpaid workers. Just enforce the law and shut down the ones that are illegal,” he opined.
Under the plan of banning illegal POGO operations, the country is expected to lose almost P200 billion annually—from office and residential rentals, income taxes, electricity bills, employees’ wages, and regulatory revenues, among others—if the remaining players in the local online gaming industry are shut down.
Leechiu issued a warning that banning what’s left of legal POGO firms, which were already affected severely by the coronavirus pandemic, will add another dimension to the economic challenges confronting the country.
According to his calculations, the complete exit of the remaining firms, which currently occupy 1.05 million square meters of office space around the country, will result in P18.9 billion in lost annual office rentals and an additional P28.6 billion worth of rentals for residential space as many POGO employees are currently renting from local landlords.
“(We) will also be losing an estimated P5.8 billion in government taxes while the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) stands to lose another P5.25 billion in revenues. This is aside from the P9.5 billion in payments for electricity bills to Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) and other utility distributors and another P54.3 billion in income taxes lost due to the departure of foreign workers, while the local economy will suffer the loss of P52.5 billion in ‘fit-out’ costs for furniture, fixtures, and technology for these firms’ worksites,” the Leechiu Property executive spelled out.
As a final word, he described the delicate situation as POGO workers also consume an estimated P11.4 billion annually in meals in their commissaries, all of which will all be lost if the industry is shut down.
“Based on the spending average of P4,000 per person in the industry, (we) will face losses of P952 million per day in the event of a total ban even as some 347,000 local and foreign workers stand to lose their jobs,” he concluded. (ai/mtvn)