12,000 foreigners working illegally in PH – DOLE

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20) — Authorities are eyeing to shut down online gaming firms found to have hired at least 12,000 foreigners illegally.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported that there are thousands of foreigners working in Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) companies without permits, bolstering suspicions that the government is losing out on billions of pesos of income taxes from this industry.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said these POGO firms hiring illegal foreign workers must be shut down. He also believes that there are a lot more foreigners employed illegally in the country.

“For the next meeting, we would like to see movement on the assessment, we would like to see inspections and closure of establishments with illegal foreign workers. So we'd like to see progress. And you know, if there are 12,000 that you found, there must be a lot more, a lot more who are floating around,” Dominguez said in a statement.

The figures do not include POGOs based in special economic zones as well as restaurants, which are yet to be inspected by the agency.

The Department of Finance (DOF) has been leading the crackdown on POGOs employing foreigners without complying with local laws, saying that they have not been paying income taxes despite working in the Philippines. Initial estimates showed the government may be missing out on ₱32 billion worth of annual income taxes from foreign POGO workers alone.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has so far computed ₱1.4 billion in withholding taxes which should have been remitted by 19 POGO service providers in 2018. These firms have been given tax assessments and will be given 10 days to respond, said BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa.

Dominguez also called on the Bureau of Immigration to step up arrests of illegal foreign workers, saying that the agency only captured 393 aliens last year.

Based on a DOF statement, the DOLE has reported that these illegal aliens are employed by 33 POGO firms. The DOLE also discovered 20 out of the 148 POGO companies are not registered with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. 

Across all industries, there are only 122,397 foreigners holding working permits that make their stay in the country legitimate. The figure is lower than the previous tally of 138,000 after validation and removal of duplicates.

READ: DOLE reviewing work permits to foreigners to check if jobs were not snatched from Pinoys

A foreigner must get an alien employment permit from DOLE before they can work in the Philippines. New rules issued by the Labor department this month also require foreign workers to secure tax identification numbers from the BIR.

Bureau of Local Employment Director Dominique Tutay previously said that bulk of the special work permits were for the Chinese totaling 127,033, more than two-thirds the 185,000 granted in 2018.