Solon to PAGCOR: Enforce GEL IDs on workers of POGOs

Published May 4, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda on Monday urged the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to push through with its original plan of issuing Gaming Employment License or GEL IDs to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) workers.

Albay Representative Joey Salceda (MANILA BULLETIN FILE)
Albay Representative Joey Salceda (MANILA BULLETIN FILE)

This, as the House Ways and Means Committee chairman continued to bat for the resumption of POGO operations, primarily for the purpose of collecting tax money for health care amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salceda said that the issuance of GEL IDs will help the government track which POGOs are legitimate and are thus capable of paying proper taxes.

“PAGCOR [should] issue a GEL ID to each POGO employee,” Salceda, co-chairman of the Economic Stimulus Cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) told this reporter via Viber.

The Bicol solon said each GEL ID must contain the worker’s taxpayer identification number (TIN) and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) work permit number, among other key details.

Salceda added that the POGO employees, majority of whom are foreigners, must show “certification that they went through a cultural seminar where in they will be taught how to behave in the Philippines.”

“Hindi yun bastos sila (They shouldn’t be disrespectful),” he noted, alluding to reports of rowdy behavior from foreign POGO workers since last year.

Salceda estimated that the monthly tax take from POGOs could reach as high as P2 billion if they are allowed to resume operations.

The imposition of an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last March 15 halted POGO operations as well as that of other industries and businesses as the government tried to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. As of Monday, some areas in the country like Metro Manila have maintained ECQ status, while others have shifted to the relatively more relaxed General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

In response to the persisting threat of the deadly and highly contagious disease, Salceda also asked POGO employers to ensure that their workers are tested first for COVID-19.

“Each POGO enployer needs to submit a clearance that they went through testing and that they are COVID-free,” he said.

The clamor for GEL IDs or any sort of monitoring mechanism for POGO workers grew late last year following the foreigners’ involvement in various crimes such as kidnapping.

Ang Probinsyano Party-List Rep. Ronnie Ong, vice-chair of the House Committee on Games and Amusements, bared last December that PAGCOR was supposed to roll out GEL IDs in January, 2020.

Salceda believes that POGOs will be allowed to operate again eventually, “because they’re not illegal.”

“The question at hand is, if the promise is government revenue, ‘how do we get more out of the industry?'” he said.