By Genalyn Kabiling
Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) have not yet resumed operations during the quarantine period apparently due to pending tax requirements, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after dismissing calls to review the government’s policy allowing POGOs as “premature.”
“Wala pa pong nag-o-operate ng POGO. Kasi ang sabi po ng BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) hindi pa sila nagbibigay ng tax clearance sa kahit kanino (No POGO has resumed operations because the BIR said they have not given tax clearance to anyone),” Roque said in a press briefing aired on state television.
The government recently allowed the partial operations of POGOs subject to certain conditions, after reclassifying the industry as part of the business process outsourcing sector. Under the government rules, POGOs must pay their tax dues and observe health protocols before resuming operations.
POGOs were previously categorized under amusement and gaming establishments that have are prohibited since the lockdown was first implemented in Luzon back in March.
Recently, authorities conducted raids on illegal healthcare facilities that supposedly cater to Chinese nationals including those working in POGOs.
In his remarks on Monday, Roque acknowledged that the POGO industry has yet to recover from the coronavirus lockdown. He also advised against linking the illegal clinics to the POGO operations .
“So, I think that question is premature, wala pa naman pong recovery sa POGO. Let’s not attribute anything na hindi pa po nagsisimula nga iyong industriyang iyon (Let’s not attribute anything since the industry has yet to resume),” he said when asked if the government will review POGO operations over reports some have kept illegal health facilities for their workers.
On the illegal healthcare facilities, Roque assured the public that the government will hold accountable those behind these establishments.
He said three cases that may be filed against those behind the underground clinics are illegal practice of medicine, illegal sale of unregistered pharmaceutical products, and violation of the quarantine rules.
“Lahat po ng COVID cases ay dapat niri-report sa DOH (Department of Health) (All COVID cases must be reported to the DOH),” he said.