POGOs are not BPO firms, industry group says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 2) — Business process outsourcing companies reject the government's comparison of their operations with offshore gaming firms in the country that are now being allowed to resume activities.

In approving Philippine offshore gaming operators to resume work partially, the government considered them to be part of the BPO industry, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday.

But the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, or IBPAP, the umbrella industry group of BPOs, said in a statement on Saturday that “POGOs cannot be considered as BPO.”

They listed at least four "key differences" in the nature of their business and that of POGOs.

For one, the industry group said, BPOs are registered with the either the Philippine Economic Zone Authority or the Board of Investments, while POGOs get their license to operate from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, it said.

While both types of businesses are into offshoring, the POGO companies “primarily do so because they are allegedly unable to practice their betting or gambling functions in their respective shore,” the group said.

Most POGOs in the Philippines are set up by Chinese interests who are reportedly cannot operate in their native country China due to restrictions there on gambling operators.

The BPO association also pointed out that they invest on Filipino workers while POGOs mostly employ foreign nationals, BPO companies said they create “higher value” jobs.

The great majority of workers in POGOs are said to be Chinese nationals who cater to gaming clients in the Chinese mainland.

IT-enabled jobs in BPOs, the industry group said further, require "a range of technical, domain, and soft skills" that place greater value on Filipino workers' "strong English and technical skills, customer service orientation, and ability to adapt to foreign cultures."

"This, in turn, has directly benefitted millions of Filipinos by providing them with better employment opportunities throughout the years. In the case of POGOs, majority of their staffing comes from foreign labor brought into the country to support their operations," the BPO association said.

On Friday, the government allowed POGOs to resume partial operations at 30 percent capacity starting May 1. They have to comply first with requirements such as coronavirus testing for all workers before they can return to their workplaces, the payment of taxes and guarantee fees to the government, and the practice of physical distancing in offices.

PAGCOR Chairman Andrea Domingo earlier said POGOs' earnings can be used in government efforts to fight COVID-19. Roque said the government can collect as much as P600 million in monthly revenues from POGOs.

Roque insisted on Saturday that POGOs are part of the BPO industry.

"Ang POGOs naman po kasi ay isang klase ng BPO. Wala pong favoritism diyan," Roque said in a Laging Handa briefing.

[Translation: POGOs are considered BPO. There is no favoritism there.]

He explained Philippines-based POGOs provide the IT systems necessary for gambling to be held abroad.

Under the new quarantine guidelines, establishments catering to amusement and entertainment are still banned from reopening.