Why allow POGOs to resume when most don’t pay taxes? — Sen. Villanueva

Published April 21, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Joel Villanueva isn’t very keen on the proposal to allow Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) to resume, amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

Senator Joel Villanueva (Senator Joel Villanueva Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Joel Villanueva (Senator Joel Villanueva Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Villanueva on April 21, Tuesday raised concerns that resuming operations of offshore gambling businesses would only worsen the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III bared on April 20 that they are currently evaluating proposals to lift the suspension of POGOs to augment the government’s funds for COVID-19 response.

But the senator said the government should not only consider income generation, but also health concerns with the opening of such industries.
He considered the POGO industry as a “high risk sector,” which “has a huge potential of spreading the disease.”

“Because there are several workers working an enclosed area and are residing in high rise condominiums,” he noted.

He also pointed out: “Most of them also don’t pay taxes. So what’s the rationale for allowing them to operate?”

Villanueva said the Department of Finance (DOF) should come up with a clear framework on which sectors would be allowed to operate amid the pandemic.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, for his part, said he is “okay” with the resumption of POGO operations as long as “it is work from home.”

If not, he said: “It’s non essential. I would rather allow construction workers and farmers to go back to work.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, for his part, said he is “okay” with the resumption of POGO operations as long as “it is work from home.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Duterte is still studying this proposal by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and some lawmakers. He said the reopening of POGO is part of matters to be decided upon by Duterte, following a meeting with health experts and scientists Monday night.

Roque, on the other hand, said POGOs “are part of an industry that gives cash resources to the President and our government.”

The government has been cracking down on POGO companies and service providers that fail and refuse to remit proper taxes.

In a Senate hearing led by Villanueva on February, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) admitted that the Philippines loses about P50 billion in unsettled withholding taxes, regulatory fees, and franchise taxes from POGOs.

The BIR has said that they were only able to collect some P5 billion in withholding taxes in 2019 from the salaries of POGOs workers, when government was eyeing to collect at least P2 billion per month from them.

 
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