Exiting POGOs should still pay unsettled taxes — Villanueva
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) exiting the country amid the imposition of tax rules should be blacklisted if they don’t pay the unsettled taxes they owe to the government, Senator Joel Villanueva said on Monday.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said that the reported “exodus” of POGO companies due to tax issues only solidifies the idea that they have a very little economic contribution to the country, especially with their unwillingness to pay taxes.
“POGOs won’t be a loss to the Philippine economy. We should attract companies that invest in Filipino people. Good riddance,” Villanueva said in a statement.
“The exiting POGO companies should still pay the taxes they owe us. Otherwise, we should blacklist them and name them publicly so that other countries will be warned about the behavior of these companies,” he also said, adding that the Philippine government has already provided opportunities for POGOs to settle taxes.
According to Villanueva, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. should have been “circumspect” in constructing a regulatory framework for the POGO sector, and proactive in ensuring that all applicable laws are followed by all their licensees.
He noted that despite calls to the attention of various government agencies, the sector continued violations of labor, immigration, and taxation laws and that its proliferation has also been linked to criminality and prostitution.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue earlier disclosed to the Senate labor committee that POGO firms owe the government at least P50 billion in unpaid taxes in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment revealed it discovered over 6,000 illegal foreign workers in Pagcor-licensed POGO firms and POGO service providers over a course of inspections last year.
“Pagcor also admitted that there were about 100 to 120 illegal POGO firms operating in the country. They were never clear what they intended to do about it, despite their mandate of regulating the gaming industry,” said Villanueva. “Meanwhile, they left their job to various government agencies who were left to fend for themselves.”
The lawmaker then called on the government to ramp up efforts to boost long-term public investments to attract new foreign direct investments in the country, which in turn will lead to massive employment.
“The Philippines remains to be open for business, and we welcome to our shores investors who are able to create jobs and livelihood for our people. At the same time, we want enterprises that are responsible and faithful to the laws of our land,” said the senator.
“The failure of POGOs to adhere to our laws resulted in their exit. This is what happened, plain and simple,” he concluded.
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