Senator airs concern over lost taxes from illegal foreign workers

Published March 26, 2019, 4:38 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola 

Senator Joel Villanueva is backing the Department of Finance (DOF) in its efforts to determine the total number of foreign workers in Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) after learning that the government is losing P22 billion in tax payments from illegal foreign workers yearly.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development on Tuesday expressed alarm over the DOF’s report that the government has not been collecting at least P22 billion in income taxes from POGO workers.

Senator Joel Villanueva gestures during the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development hearing on the deaths of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), February 21,2018.(Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Joel Villanueva (CZAR DANCEL / MANILA BULLETIN)

“If the DOF’s estimate is correct, then we have been losing a lot of badly needed revenue. This is disappointing, considering that the agency responsible for regulating gambling seems to be missing out a lot when it comes to overseeing the industry,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“At the moment, this budding industry generated employment, but not for our kababayans (conuntrymen). Sino po ba dapat ang nakikinabang sa sitwasyon na ito (Who should benefit from this situation)? Dapat po tayong Pilipino ang nakikinabang (It’s the Filipinos who should benefit),” he added.

The DOF said some 100,000 foreign workers were employed in 205 offshore gaming service providers, and they are paid an average of P78,000 a month.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez estimated that with the average income tax rate of 25 percent, each worker should pay about P18,750 in income tax every month.

The interagency task force formed to address the rise in illegal foreign workers is expected to come up with a complete list of these workers by March 29 with the aim of collecting taxes from their wages.

Villanueva, meanwhile, called out the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) for the “inconsistent data” it supposedly presented to the interagency task force, and even to the Senate Committee on Labor during the hearings it conducted on the issue.

He scored anew the state gambling regulator for its failure to monitor the growing number of foreign workers employed by offshore gaming operators and service providers.

“At the committee hearing we conducted last February, the Pacgor representative admitted that the agency does not monitor foreign workers employed in offshore gaming operators and service providers which they accredit and license,” Villanueva said.

“This is clearly inconsistent with its policy of requiring all gaming facilities accredited by Pagcor to ensure that all personnel who participate in gaming operations have a valid gaming employment license (GEL),” he noted.

A GEL ensures an individual’s fitness to work at a gaming facility and their track record as a casino worker. Under its manual, regular and contractual casino employees, as well as outsourced personnel, should secure a GEL from the Pagcor before being allowed to work.

Villanueva reiterated his call that foreigners should secure sufficient documents and follow laws especially if they intend to work in the Philippines.

“If foreign workers want to work here, they have to follow our laws. They must pay the right taxes. They must secure the necessary working permits. They must obtain a proper working visa,” he said.

Last month, the Bureau of Immigration blamed the rise of POGOs as one of the reasons that triggered the influx of illegal foreign workers in the country.