De Lima presses for Senate probe on tax liabilities, alien employment in POGOs

Published March 20, 2019, 3:53 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Hannah Torregoza

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday reiterated her call for a Senate inquiry into the alleged failure of foreign gaming firms to comply with proper taxation and lawful employment of their alien workers.

FACING ARREST – Senator Leila de Lima is in fighting form in this photo taken at a press conference in the Senate last Tuesday. A regional trial court on Thursday ordered her arrest. (Jansen Romero | Manila Bulletin)

De Lima, who earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 1030 pressed for a legislative probe into the reported failure of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) firms to comply with government regulations on foreign workers.

The detained senator lamented that these firms were notably remiss in paying appropriate personal income taxes due to the Philippine government.

“Given the huge discrepancy between the number of foreign POGO workers in the Philippines and tax revenues from them, there is a need to document all foreign workers to ensure the legality of their presence and identify their taxpayer classification,” de Lima said.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III earlier claimed that the government is losing at least P3-billion in tax revenues a month from foreign POGO workers who do not pay personal income taxes.

Dominquez calculated that from an estimated 100,000 foreign workers earning about US$2,500 a month, each had to pay 25 percent personal income tax amounting to US$600.

It is estimated that the Bureau of Immigration (BI) had issued various forms of temporary work permits to around 95,000 foreign nationals working as POGO employees, middle of 2018.

The former justice secretary pointed out that the concerned government agencies should consolidate the list of foreign workers in the POGO industry to accurately determine their corresponding tax liability.

“These discrepancies in government records of foreign nationals employed in POGO establishments show how flawed our current registry and regulation system is and highlights the lack of a unified and harmonized effort among different agencies,” she said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are the agencies in charge of providing and registering POGO workers.

“This failure of our government agencies to coordinate their regulatory activities could lead to serious issues, including those of criminality, national security, and possible abuse of our citizens by undocumented foreign nationals,” De Lima added.

De Lima has earlier also filed Senate Resolution No. 953 urging the Senate to look into what she called “loose regulatory policies” on the operations of casino-entertainment resorts, online gaming sites and junket casinos in the country.

As of September, the government has authorized 57 foreign gaming companies with at least four integrated casino-entertainment resorts in Metro Manila located near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to cater to their high-rolling, foreign clientele.

De Lima said that despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s moratorium on new casinos effective January 2018, more casinos are scheduled to open in the coming years, which may place the gambling and casino industry at serious risk of market saturation and oversupply.