New Senate probe on offshore gaming firms sought

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 18 2019 10:26 AM | Updated as of Jul 18 2019 10:47 AM

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MANILA -- Sen. Joel Villanueva on Thursday said he might seek a legislative inquiry into whether or not the benefits brought by Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hubs outweigh costs like rising lease rates and potential money laundering operations.

Some Filipino workers and call centers have been forced to leave their rented homes and offices after lease rates rose -- and in some cases doubled -- due to heavy demand from POGOs, a hearing by the Senate labor committee headed by Villanueva earlier this year found, he said.
 
The business process outsourcing industry employs some 500,000 Filipinos, while POGOs primarily hire Chinese workers, he said.

POGOs also have their own financial system and infrastructure, which may prevent regulators from monitoring money laundering activities, he said.

The government has failed to collect at least P22 billion a year in income taxes from POGO workers that could exceed 100,000 in number, Villanueva said, citing information from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

"Pagbalik po ng Senado sa Monday, we are thinking of filing a resolution para tingnan po nating mabuti kung ano iyung benepisyo nito (POGO). Baka mas marami po iyung mawawalang benepisyo sa mga makukuha natin," the senator told radio DZMM.

(When the Senate resumes its session on Monday, we are thinking of filing a resolution to examine its benefits. The benefits that we stand to lose may be greater that those we could gain.)

"Hindi po talaga katanggap-tanggap na makilala tayo bilang isang bansa na sin city ng China o anumang bansa dahil sa pag-usbong ng POGO," he added.

(It's not acceptable for us to become known as the sin city of China or any other country due to the emergence of POGO.)

Villanueva said he was hopeful of heading the labor committee again in the incoming 18th Congress as no other senator was interested in the post.

The POGO industry has flourished in the Philippines because gambling is illegal in China and heavily opposed by its Communist government.

As of latest count, Pagcor has authorized 55 POGO operators, but only around 50 are reportedly operating due to lack of capital.

Sen. Leila De Lima last March asked the Senate to look into the reported failure of POGO firms to comply with tax laws and other regulations.