POGOs employ about 130,000 Chinese nationals in the Philippines. Earlier, China urged the Philippines to ban online gaming, saying it could trigger crimes like money laundering. President Duterte has rejected the request, saying such ban would lead to job losses.
AFP/Marcus Erricson, File photo
POGOs get ultimatum to pay taxes
(The Philippine Star) - December 2, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday warned Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) to comply with President Duterte’s three-day ultimatum to settle their tax liabilities or face closure and criminal charges.

Duterte has given POGOs three days to pay their tax dues, saying those who fail to do so would be shot or turned into “pugo” or quail. The President has also asked POGOs to register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and warned them not to fool around with Filipinos.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said POGOs that have tax deficiencies should not be allowed to continue their operations.

“They cannot operate. They have to pay taxes,” Panelo said in a radio interview. 

Asked whether violators would be sent to jail or deported, Panelo replied: “Of course. Any violation has corresponding penalties.” 

Panelo could not elaborate on how the BIR would enforce the three-day ultimatum, saying he has to see the transcript of the President’s remarks. He said the crackdown on tax delinquent POGOs would not anger China, where most of the gaming operators and workers came from. 

“China has said that we should comply with whatever is legal. There are no exceptions. If they need to pay taxes, they ought to pay taxes,” the Palace spokesman said. 

POGOs employ about 130,000 Chinese nationals in the Philippines. Earlier, China urged the Philippines to ban online gaming, saying it could trigger crimes like money laundering. President Duterte has rejected the request, saying such ban would lead to job losses. 

The government has collected P1.63 billion in withholding taxes from POGOs and service providers in the first eight months of the year. The amount is way higher than the P579 million collected last year and P175 million generated in 2017. 

Last September, the BIR shuttered a gaming operator for failure to settle its tax deficiencies. 

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will continue checking on all POGOs operating in the country despite suspension of labor inspection during the holiday season.         

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello ordered all DOLE regional offices to halt labor inspection activities starting yesterday.         

Bello, however, clarified that the suspension does not cover complaint inspections, occupational safety and health standards investigations and technical safety inspections. 

POGOs and other firms employing foreign nationals are also not exempted from the inspection.

Bello said he can still order inspections of any establishments or industry if necessary. 

According to Bello, he suspended the inspection activities to enable the DOLE to dispose all pending labor standards cases and prepare the inspection program for 2020.            

Routine inspections of commercial establishments shall resume upon issuance of the 2020 General Authority for Labor Inspectors.       

Bello said DOLE regional directors shall ensure that all results of inspection activities are uploaded in the Management Information System before the end of December during the period of suspension. 

He said all the mobile gadgets used for inspection activities will also undergo audit to ensure that all 2019 inspection findings are uploaded and those mobile gadgets issued are properly utilized and maintained. 

A total of 57,514 establishments, covering 2.3 million workers, have been inspected by DOLE as of September. Most of the inspected establishments were engaged in wholesale and retail, accommodation and food service, and administrative support and service.  – With Mayen Jaymalin

ONLINE GAMING POGO TAX
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