By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
This was the reaction of some senators on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s (Pagcor) warning that offshore gaming businesses are starting to ship out due to issues with the country’s tax regulations.
Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday even welcomed the looming exodus of Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) as reported by the Pagcor.
“They will not be a loss to the Philippine economy. We should attract companies that invest in Filipino people. Good riddance,” Villanueva said in a tweet.
The senator chairs the Senate Labor Committee and has been vocal in opposing POGOs for their violations of government regulations and impacts to public order and Filipino job opportunities.
But before their exit, Villanueva said POGOs should be made to pay their unsettled liabilities.
“The exiting POGO companies should still pay the taxes they owe us. Otherwise, we should blacklist them and name them publicly so that other countries will be warned about the behavior of these companies,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon shared Villanueva’s sentiment.
“That’s good news. Let them go. Hindi po natin kawalan ang POGOs (POGOs will not be a loss to the country). Huwag po natin silang habulin (We should not chase after them). Pagcor should stop playing a lover to POGOs. It should abandon any effort to woo them back,” Drilon said in a text message.
Drilon said the country’s tax laws are “clear” that “POGOs should pay franchise and withholding taxes.”
“They should settle their P50 billion unpaid taxes,” he said.
“I urge the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) to immediately implement a closure order to these delinquent POGOs. Failure to implement it is a violation of its own rules,” he reminded the BIR.
Senator Francis Pangilinan also said that “it would be better” for POGOs to leave the country as he pointed out its negative impacts.
“Sabi ng DOF at NEDA [na] maliit lang ang magiging impact sa ekonomiya ng paglisan ng POGO, at liban dito sangkatutak na mga batas ang binabalewala ng mga ito mula sa tax laws, immigration laws, anti-trafficking, anti- kidnapping, money laundering, anti-gambling, anti graft. Panunuhol, prostitusyon, tax evasion, pati ang paglabag sa Local Government Code,” Pangilinan said. (The Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority have said that the effect of the exit of POGOs will only be minimal, and aside from this, these businesses have been brushing aside several of our laws — from tax laws, immigration, anti-trafficking, anti-kidnapping, money-laundering, anti-gambling, anti-graft. Also bribery, prostitution, and even violations of our Local Government Code.)
“Mas mainam na umalis na sila (It would be better that they leave). ‘Yong mga investor na umaalis sa China ang dapat ipalit sa POGO at tiyak ‘di hamak na mas malaki ang investment at trabaho ang dala ng mga ito (We should instead entice the investors leaving China to replace POGOs and for sure, they will bring more investments and jobs to the country),” he added.
The Pagcor earlier confirmed that at least two offshore gaming companies have asked for the cancellation of their licenses and have left the country.
“More others are leaving the Philippines,” said Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo. The gaming regulator attributed this to the country’s stringent tax rules, specifically the imposition of franchise tax on online gaming as well as the ban on casino operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pagcor said the POGOs’ exodus will not only affect government income, but also the 30,521 Filipinos reportedly working for these companies.