MANILA — The Philippine government must collect the unpaid taxes of Chinese offshore gaming firms before allowing them to resume operations amid the coronavirus lockdown, the chair of the House of Representatives' tax-writing panel said on Sunday.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said allowing Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations or POGOs to go back to business will be an opportunity for the Philippines to earn "free money to fund healthcare."
"China, the principal market, is beginning to recover from COVID-19, so there is definitely a resumption of demand. That’s free money to fund health care," Salceda said. ic task force on Thursday allowed POGOs, mostly based in Metro Manila, to re-open with up to 30 percent of their workforce if they meet government requirements.
The government has yet to finalize the guidelines on how POGOs will resume partial operations, but Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) Chairman Andrea Domingo said firms will be notified of the final requirements on May 4.
Salceda said the Philippines needs to "enforce tax laws to the fullest."
"You can even use the question of whether POGOs should be allowed to reopen as an opportunity to collect tax liabilities. We can make granting the permission to reopen conditional on settling existing tax liabilities," Salceda said.
Domingo had earlier said that POGOs should pay all tax obligations up to March 2020, before they will be allowed to operate.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque characterized POGOs as a form of business process outsourcing or BPO.
There are over 60 POGO license holders and over 200 service providers in the country.
—Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News