THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said the government should focus on locating Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) outside Metro Manila and in selected areas designated as games and recreational islands.

The government allowed POGOs to operate with up to 30% of their workforce in areas under quarantine, after classifying them as business process outsourcing (BPO) companies.

PEZA in a statement on Sunday said that it supports the reclassification but added does not register POGOs.

The Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) on Saturday outlined the differences between POGOs and outsourcing companies, noting that the latter are registered with PEZA and the Board of Investments. POGOs register with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).

“(PEZA) does not register IT/BPOs engaged in online gambling, but supports the government efforts to raise income by POGO and online gambling,” PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza said.

PEZA said the government can locate online gambling in the Cagayan Valley Ecozone and the Aurora Economic Zone, which have the authority to register them.

“The government can focus the location of online gambling in these two areas or put these operators in selected islands for security and safety purposes but, not in the existing business districts and urban centers of Metro Manila and other cities,” Ms. Plaza said.

“PAGCOR is very capable of putting up and managing these selected islands, designing these as Games and Recreation Tourism destinations similar to Macau and Las Vegas,” she added.

IBPAP Chief Executive Officer and President Rey C. Untal said BPOs come to the Philippines for the domestic human capital, against POGOs which hire foreign labor.

“It is also worth noting that the IT-enabled jobs BPO companies create are of much higher value, requiring a range of technical, domain, and soft skills. This is also very different from the work done by the game development sector which is sometimes mistaken as having similarities due to the gaming notion,” he said.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a mobile message to reporters on Saturday: “There are similarities with BPOs in terms of the use of IT and online platforms in their business models, not bricks and mortar, no physical interaction with clients and customers. (POGOs) could impose the required minimum health protocol standards” required of BPOs in order to operate. — Jenina P. Ibañez