PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday night rejected calls to suspend online cockfighting operations in the country, saying the popular game is a major source of income for the government. 

Mr. Duterte said suspending electronic sabong (e-sabong), the Filipino term for cockfighting, would significantly decrease government revenues. 

I took my time and did not issue an order immediately to suspend its operations because of the income that the government derives from allowing this kind of game to go online in public,he said in mixed English and Filipino at a taped Cabinet meeting. 

Several lawmakers have been calling for the suspension of the popular game after the reported disappearances of small-time online cockfighters over the past few months. 

Mr. Duterte said he once hatedgambling but he needs to allow it because the government benefits from it. 

It is good because the government allows it,he said. If its badyou cannot look for a rationale to justify it.” 

The President asked lawmakers to respect his decision because the government is short of money

Andrea D. Domingo, chief of the countrys gaming regulator, told Mr. Duterte that the government was able to collect about P3.69 billion from the operations of eight e-sabong licensees from April to December last year. 

She added there was a collection of about P1.37 billion from the operations of seven licensees from January to March 15 this year.  

Ms. Domingo also reported that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation has suspended two of eight e-sabong operators due to failure to comply with their financial obligations. Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza