MANILA - Classifying Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) as business process outsourcing (BPO) firms will allow them to skip the payment of license fees, resulting in the loss of some P50 billion overdue franchise fees, Sen. Franklin Drilon said Tuesday.
Government earlier allowed POGOs to resume partial operations despite Metro Manila's lockdown, with Malacañang saying these are BPO firms.
Drilon, however, said BPOs were not liable to pay franchise fees.
"Mali po 'yan at nakakalungkot. Sinasabi natin kailangan natin ipa-operate ang POGO dahil kailangan natin ng salapi, 'yan po ay questionable," he told radio DZMM.
"Kung sasabihan natin silang pwede sila mag-operate dahil sila’y BPO edi hindi natin sila pwede kolektahan ng franchise tax o license fee na kinokolekta ng PAGCOR."
In a statement, the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines said there are several key differences between POGOs and BPOs: BPO companies are registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority or the Board of Investments, while POGOs are registered with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, POGOs are unable to practice their betting or gambling functions in their respective shores, and IT-enabled jobs BPO companies create are of much higher value, requiring a range of technical, domain, and soft skills.
It said BPOs come to the Philippines to leverage off the Philippines' human capital, directly benefiting millions of Filipinos by providing them with better employment opportunities throughout the years.
“In the case of POGOs, majority of their staffing comes from foreign labor brought into the country to support their operations, it added.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, earlier said government must first collect the unpaid taxes of Chinese offshore gaming firms before allowing them to resume operations.
"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," he said.
Several senators have earlier moved for the permanent closure of POGOs, but President Rodrigo Duterte insisted that the online gambling operators were "clean."
There are over 60 POGO license holders and over 200 service providers in the country.