MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday pushed for the inclusion of a provision that will mandate online gambling firms to fully pay their taxes to boost the Philippines' fund for coronavirus response programs.
Some P50 billion in unpaid taxes from the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) industry should be collected and earmarked for coronavirus projects, Drilon said in plenary.
"That is also a source of funding that could help us achieve the interventions," he said.
"We would also provide clearly that no POGO shall be allowed unless these taxes are collected," he said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, whose Labor Committee held an investigation on POGO operations in the first quarter of this year, told the chamber that Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officials earlier admitted to having a "hard time" collecting dues from Chinese-run online gambling firms.
Villanueva said that apart from the registered gambling firms, there are also 120 to 150 illegal online gambling hubs in the country.
Some legal POGOs also hire illegal foreign workers, some of whom allegedly share a tax identification number that slashed the government's tax collections from individual workers, he said.
"Last year alone, they were able to arrest 6,678 illegal foreign workers working in legal POGO operations accredited by PAGCOR," Villanueva said, referring to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
Prior to the spike of coronavirus cases in the Philippines, senators pushed to probe PAGCOR's alleged lobbying for the continuance of POGO firms in the country despite several law violations, including an outright refusal to pay taxes.
Last month, PAGCOR urged officials to allow POGOs to resume operations amid a lockdown in Luzon, where only essential industries - like hospitals, groceries and banks - were allowed to operate.