MANILA, July 8 (Mabuhay) — Despite previously being against online gambling in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he was forced to allow the activity to boost the country’s Covid-19 response funds.

In a pre-recorded meeting with his political party officials, Duterte said allowing gambling operations was the most “sensible” thing to do, considering the government is running short of funds.

“Itong sugal, bakit ko pinayagan? Wala tayong pera eh. Ngayon kasi kailangan natin ng pera (Why did I allow gambling? We don’t have money…Now that we need money), the most sensible thing is really just to encourage those activities. Though it may sound not really repulsive but maybe repugnant to some, eh magdusa na muna kayo kasi kailangan ko talaga ang pera para sa bayan (you have to deal with it because we need money for the country),” he said.

Duterte acknowledged that he was previously against the online gambling industry, noting that he even insisted on a no-casino policy in famous resorts in both Boracay and Bohol.

He said the prevailing pandemic has forced the government to tap reserved funds from gambling operations.

“Sabi nila na lahat sa panahon ko pinayagan ko ang sugal (They say I allowed gambling during my time). Correct, that is true. I do not deny it. Now, I would like to bring your mind a few years back in time. ‘Di ba noong Presidente ako bago, sinabi ko ‘ayaw ko ng sugal’ (When I was newly installed as President, I said ‘I am against gambling’) and I never allowed it,” he said.

He said it was the only way to prevent Covid-19 from infecting more people in the country.

“Pagdating ng pandemic, naubos ang pera natin. May reserba natin nagamit natin lahat (When it comes to the pandemic, we’re running out of money. We used up all our reserved funds) to contain the viral virus from rampaging all throughout the country,” he added.

Duterte, however, said he is still against gambling “in the barangay-level” noting that it would be more difficult to control.

Malacañang recognizes the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) as the government’s tax revenue generators amid the prevailing health crisis, but would not let them evade paying the right taxes.

Around 60 POGOs have secured licensed to operate in the Philippines.  (MNS)

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