Senators push for collection of P50-B unpaid POGO taxes

By Hannah Torregoza

Some senators on Tuesday expressed their belief that the P50 billion in unpaid taxes of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) should be collected and channeled to the government's efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Senate of the Philippines building (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook) Senate of the Philippines building (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook)

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon made the call as he inquired about the status of the P50 billion franchise and other taxes that POGOs supposedly owe the government.

“That is a source of funding that could help us achieve our interventions (on COVID-19),” Drilon told Senate finance committee chair Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara in the plenary discussion on the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

The unpaid taxes, Drilon said, can be earmarked for activities and programs to spur economic activity and address the country’s COVID-19 situation.

Sen. Joel Villanueva agreed with Drilon’s proposal, and said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) itself admitted that the amount remains uncollected from the POGO industry.

“And we’re only talking about the legal POGOs operating in the country,” Villanueva pointed out. “They (BIR) also admitted they are having a hard time collecting these unpaid taxes."

Villanueva added, “I think it is still a great challenge up to this point in time for the BIR who is also asking the Senate for help, and also Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) is asking us to help them collect these taxes.”

Drilon suggested to the Senate that a provision be inserted in the proposed “Bayanihan 2” law that would ensure that “no POGO operations shall be allowed (to operate) unless these taxes are collected.”

Last month, the government allowed the partial resumption of POGO offices despite the National Capital Region (NCR) still being under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

In justifying the move, the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) said POGOs are classified under the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, to the dismay of lawmakers and BPO companies.