By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) will only be allowed to operate under both the enhanced and general community quarantines (ECQ and GCQ) if they pay their taxes correctly.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman Andrea Domingo confirmed to CNN Philippines that the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) has allowed the controversial industry to resume operations.
In an interview over TV channel One PH, Roque said POGOs will now have to adhere to the following guidelines before they are allowed to operate under both the ECQ and GCQ:
1. Only 30 percent of their workforce are allowed
2. Show proof that they are paying taxes
3. Show proof of paying all fees required by PAGCOR
4. Screen all employees to ensure they are not infected by COVID-19. Testing will be shouldered by the POGO
5. Implement strict physical distancing
6. Employees must wear face masks
7. POGOs must provide a shuttle service or lodging for employees
8. POGO must pay their employees even during days they were not able to work
According to Roque, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will be the one that will issue the necessary clearance if a POGO can resume operations.
“BIR will issue a clearance na tanging yung mga nagbayad ng buwis lamang (only those who are paying taxes will be allowed),” he said.
“Lahat po ng proceeds gagamitin po sa COVID-19 (All proceeds will go to the government’s COVID-19 efforts),” he added.
Roque reiterated that POGOs were allowed to operate because they are considered part of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and not the gaming sector. BPO is allowed under both ECQ and GCQ.
“Ang sugal po hindi sa Pilipinas ‘yan, sa labas. Ang meron lang po dito ay yung computer, software, hardware, at software (No gambling activity is taking place in the Philippines. What we have here are just computers, hardware, and software),” he explained.
Roque earlier explained that should the government allow POGOs to operate, it would be because the country needs money to fund its COVID-19 efforts.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) earlier said POGOs generate only P7 billion in net inflows while the BIR revealed that over P27 billion in tax liabilities remain uncollected from the sector.
Last year, President Duterte warned POGOs that he will go after them if they fail to pay taxes.