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POGOsâ unpaid taxes hit P50 billion
In view of these, Sen. Joel Villanueva urged the government to suspend the POGOs until regulations are tightened and leakages are plugged.
AFP/Marcus Erricson, File photo

POGOs’ unpaid taxes hit P50 billion

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Of the P54 billion that flowed in and out of the country through Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs), only P7 billion was counted as net inflow, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) reported yesterday.

Citing the agency’s risk assessment, AMLC chief Mel Georgie Racela said the figures indicated leakages through fraudulent means.

On the other hand, while the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) annually collects two percent of the total gross profits from POGOs as fees, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said the industry still owes the government P50 billion in the form of franchise, corporate and other taxes.

In view of these, Sen. Joel Villanueva urged the government to suspend the POGOs until regulations are tightened and leakages are plugged.

Villanueva, chairman of the committee on labor and employment, said the POGOs were not only blamed for the rise of criminality in the country, but it reportedly increased the risk of money laundering.

He pushed for the suspension of the POGOs during a joint hearing conducted by the committees on labor and employment, and trade and commerce chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.

“Until the regulations of the concerned government agencies have not been harmonized, until they have not seen themselves how to implement these, these POGOs must be suspended,” Villanueva said. 

It was revealed during the hearing that while an interagency body has set new rules requiring POGO workers mostly Chinese nationals to obtain work visas before entering the country, there appears to be no coordinated and strict measures to enforce the rule.

“This means that thousands of POGO workers arrived in the country as tourists and get employed. A majority of them did not secure alien employment permits from the Department of Labor and Employment and they only used the limited special work permits issued by the Bureau of Immigration. Worse, they do not have tax identification numbers,” Villanueva said.

The country also faces increasing threats of money laundering activities with the rise of POGOs, officials told the committees.

Senators denounced the differing figures of the BI, DOLE and Pagcor on the actual number of foreign and local POGOs workers, which gave the authorities difficulty in collecting taxes from and running after these illegal aliens. 

DOLE figures showed there are over 120,000 POGO workers in the country, while Pagcor counted only 118,239.

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