MANILA - Only two Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) firms have paid taxes despite the industry being allowed to resume operations during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown, Sen. Joel Villanueva said Tuesday.
The government earlier allowed POGOs, a non-essential industry that caters mostly to Chinese, to operate during the nearly 2-month enhanced community quarantine, provided that they settle their billions-worth of tax dues.
"Hanggang ngayon, 2 POGOs pa lang ang nagbabayad ng franchise tax. Until now, wala pa ring nagbabayad ng bago... It means, dapat hindi sila nag-resume," Villanueva said in an online press conference.
(Until now, only 2 POGOs have paid franchise taxes. Until now, no new POGO has paid their tax... It means they should not be allowed to resume.)
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) earlier said that POGOs should settle all tax obligations up to March 2020, pay the salaries of 31,600 Filipino workers during the coronavirus suspension, and pay a "guarantee fee" to the government before they can reopen.
Earlier this year, Villanueva's Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development found that the online gambling firms have at least P50 billion in unpaid taxes.
The Committee will hold another hearing on alleged irregularities in POGOs before reporting its findings to the Senate plenary, Villanueva said.
The senator declined to give details about the committee report, but noted that POGOs have been enjoying "VIP treatment" in the Philippines.
"Hangga't hindi tayo nagmamatigas, hangga't hindi nagmamatigas ang gobyerno na dapat sila magbayad ng buwis, hindi sila magbabayad ng buwis," Villanueva said.
(Until we firmly ask them to pay their taxes, they will not pay taxes.)
"Kung ganiyan rin lang, isara na lang natin kung hindi natin sila mapigilan," he said.
(If that's the case, if we cannot stop them, then we should just shut them down.)