The Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has revealed that it is studying a proposal to privatize the casino operations of PAGCOR, with the organization’s head suggesting the private sector may be better placed to operate the nation’s 47-state owned casinos.
News of NEDA’s involvement follows a promise by the Department of Finance (DOF) two weeks ago to revisit the 2016 proposal to privatize PAGCOR’s casino arm, leaving it to focus solely on regulatory duties instead. The proposal also called for privatization of the Small-Town Lottery (STL), with DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez citing a government study indicting the government could earn annual revenue of Php300 billion by outsourcing casino and STL operations.
Revealing late last week that NEDA would play an important role in talks over such privatization plans, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia – the department’s head and Philippines’ chief economist – warned that under their current structures, the commercial and regulatory roles of government owned and controlled corporations (GOCC) were conflicting.
“GOCCs should adopt structural measures to address any identified anti-competitive behavior relating to their mandate and operations, since the private sector may be in a better position to carry out some of their commercial pursuits,” Pernia said.
“Transparency must be observed in procurement processes and procurement laws, rules and regulations should be applied equally and equitably to GOCCs and firms in the private sector.”
Asked specifically about the potential privatization of PAGCOR’s casino operations, Pernia told media the proposal was “still under consideration and discussion.”
NEDA isn’t the only government department to have so far backed the concept, with the Governance Commission having last year issued a recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte “for separation of commercial and regulatory functions [of PAGCOR] due to its conflicting proprietary activities and regulatory functions in which its operation of casinos conflicts with its function as a gaming regulator.”