'Good riddance': Villanueva says reported POGO exodus 'not a loss' for Philippines

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 02:53 PM

The Phil-Asian Gaming Expo features offshore games targeting bettors outside the Philippines. Games can be played on desktop or mobile devices. Photos taken at the SMX Convention Center. July 12, 2019. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The reported exodus of Chinese-run online gambling firms from the Philippines is "not a loss" to the country's economy, Sen. Joel Villanueva said Monday.

While the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators' (POGO) reported exit from the Philippine market is welcome, online gaming firms should still pay the taxes they owe the government before moving out of the country, Villanueva said in a tweet.

"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.

"They will not be a loss to the Philippine economy. We should attract companies that invest in Filipino people. Good riddance," said the senator who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chair Andrea Domingo earlier said that SC World Devt Corp., a unit of Macau's gambling giant SunCity Group has stopped doing business in the Philippines.

There are "others more" that plan to leave the country, she said.

Villanueva said this was good news for Filipinos as the exodus of POGO could result in an increase in the available number of apartments and condominium units in the country.

"We warned before about the property bubble," Villanueva told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

"When the exodus happens, we expect a decrease in the price/rent of real properties. This will be beneficial to Filipino tenants," he said.

Villanueva's committee earlier found that several POGOs owe at least P50 billion in taxes after refusing to pay franchise taxes to the government.

Eight of the 11 registered POGOs have yet to pay the franchise tax, the Bureau of Internal Revenue earlier said, noting that the the government has also been losing revenue due to illegal POGOs operating in the country.

POGOs, despite being non-essential industries, were allowed to operate during Luzon's nearly 80-day lockdown provided that they settle all their debts to the government.

Aside from Villanueva, other senators have been vocal against the proliferation of POGOs in the country, saying the industry has resulted into criminality as several online gambling firm workers were linked to prostituion, money laundering and corruption in the Immigration bureau.

"Hindi ako totally anti-POGO sa totoo lang. Ang problema ko naman bakit yung pagpapatakbo natin ng POGO, bakit may rights with violations?" Senate Committee on Economic Affairs Imee Marcos told reporters in an online press conference.

"Napakagulo naman. Wag naman ganun," she said.