Pagcor, BIR not yet closing illegal POGOs despite Duterte's ultimatum

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 10) – The state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Bureau of Internal Revenue have not yet ordered the closure of some Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs that have failed to pay their corresponding tax obligations.

This is despite President Rodrigo Duterte's warning last November 29 that POGOs must settle their taxes in three days or authorities will perform crackdowns if they fail to pay their dues.

During the hearing of the House Committee on Games and Amusements on Tuesday, Victor Padilla, senior manager of PAGCOR's policy and offshore gaming licensing division, bared that even if there are currently 62 licensed operators, only 49 are operational in the country.

BIR added that of the 49 operating online casino licenses, only ten are paying taxes and regulatory fees.

Padilla admitted that POGOs are not required to submit gross gaming revenues which are used as the basis of imposed fees by the government. PAGCOR and BIR are also currently relying on a "third party" source to assess and tax these revenues.

'Soft treatment' on POGOs questioned

Bayan Muna Chair Carlos Zarate questioned the agencies' "soft treatment" of operators and reiterated that they should instead be immediately closed for "skirting"the Philippines' laws.

"These POGOs are not only skirting their national laws, particularly China that outlaws gambling, worse these violators are also gaming our laws," he said.

"Dapat ipasara na agad itong mga 39 POGO violators na ito. Bakit malambot tayo sa mga ito samantalang napakahigpit natin sa mga kababayan natin?" Zarate added.

[Translation: We should immediately order the closure of these 39 POGO violators. Why are we soft on them when they are very tight on our fellow Filipinos?]

Bayan Muna previously filed House Resolution 221 calling for an investigation on the proliferation of POGOs and its effects on the Filipinos' livelihood and security.

The House Committee on Ways and Means had also approved House Bill 5267 proposed by its chairman Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda which imposes a uniform tax rate for POGOs.

House Bill 5267 sought to provide a "clear, definitive tax regime" for POGOs to ensure stricter oversight and collect appropriate taxes from these gambling businesses. POGO franchise holders are also required to pay a tax worth 5 percent of its gross receipts drawn from gaming operations.

READ: House panel approves bill setting 5% tax on POGOs

Duterte earlier said in an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines that POGOs must face sanctions should they fail to register with the government.

“They are now ordered to register [at] BIR [and get a tag number]. Now, I’m telling them, POGOs—[these are not just] Chinese but Filipino, Filipino-Chinese—you better settle that [liability],” Duterte said.

READ: Duterte gives POGOs 3 days to fix tax liabilities

Makati City recently took the initiative to cease from issuing new business licenses and permits to POGO service providers to curb criminality and prostitution in the area.

READ: Makati City indefinitely halts issuing business licenses and permits to POGO service providers

The city currently houses around 300 POGO service providers that employ thousands of workers, most of them identified as Chinese nationals. This has led to a high demand for residential units and an increase in apartment rentals.

The Makati City police is also investigating the recent kidnapping incident along Paseo de Roxas involving a Chinese POGO worker.