JOBS AT RISK IN PHILIPPINES FOLLOWING ONLINE GAMBLING CRACKDOWN (Update)
Major employer Philweb continues to take punishment after presidential denouncements.
In the Philippines, the presidential denouncements of online gambling and Philwebs now resigned chairman Roberto Ongpin continued to batter the e-gaming company Monday with media reports that its stock has fallen a further 35.74 percent in brisk trading
The GMA network reported that PhilWeb shares opened at P7.60 apiece, down 15.64 percent from P9.01 per share at the close of trading on Friday, gained a little in early trading but then plunged further.
Beleaguered businessman Ongpin resigned last week as chairman and director of PhilWeb and all its subsidiaries after the national president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, publicly attacked him in an address.
Ongpin has been fighting a disqualification by the Securities and Exchange Commission last year from serving as an officer or board member of any public company and ordered to pay P174 million in fines for insider trading.
His daughter, Anna Bettina Ongpin, also resigned as vice chairperson and director of PhilWeb "… to devote more time and attention to other business matters."
In a statement over the weekend, PhilWeb president Dennis Valdes claimed that the company was not in the business of online gambling.
Valdes said that he took exception to such accusations, stressing that the PAGCOR games his company runs are not online gambling because they cannot be accessed from an office or a home computer (the company runs e-cafes offering gaming facilities).
"It is a private, members-only network of clubs where players need to be physically present in order to play. Access to these clubs is strictly controlled such that it is only open to members who are over 21 years old and are financially capable of gaming," Valdez noted, adding that if the firm’s contract with Pagcor was cancelled or not renewed, its licence to operate would immediately cease.
“This means Philweb would shut down all operations,” he said. “All the suppliers of e-Games, small and medium enterprises that supply goods and services to each e-Games outlet, would also suffer from the shutdown.”
Most importantly, Valdes said, over 1,500 stockholders, comprising 47 percent of the total ownership of the company, would be affected. These include both large foreign funds and small investors.
In the same statement, Valdes noted the elder Ongpin resigned to save the company from getting shuttered by the government.
The Inquirer.net reported that up to 5,000 jobs could be at risk if Philweb fails or is shuttered by the government through a refusal to renew its PAGCOR license (the company is currently operating on a temporary license on a month-by-month basis following President Dutertes tirade against online gambling.)
The publication also points out that a Philweb closure could cost the government at least P2.1 billion in royalty fees that the firm pays to state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. for the right to operate 286 e-games outlets nationwide.
“This same revenue is used by Pagcor to fund its pro-poor programs, especially the new programs of the current administration,” the newspaper quoted from a Philweb company statement.
“Philweb’s closure would also mean lost corporate income tax, value-added tax, and other taxes of about P281 million annually to the Bureau of Internal Revenue,” it added.
Philweb has managed Pagcor’s e-games network for the past 14 years and has remitted over P14 billion to the government. Last year, it remitted over P2.1 billion to Pagcor and paid over P280 million in taxes.
The company netted P869.63 million in 2015, down 3.8 percent from P903.86 million in 2014. It generated P531 billion in gross bets in the last five years, according to its website.