MANILA— Malacañang said on Tuesday it would check whether or not Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) owe government about P1.36 billion, as reported by state auditors.
Media reports quoting the Commission on Audit said 15 POGOs owed this amount to the Philippine gaming regulator Pagcor.
The Palace is verifying this with Pagcor and the Bureau of Internal Revenue, said President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
He said Duterte had allowed POGOs to operate even during the toughest of 4 COVID-19 lockdowns to generate funds for fighting the pandemic.
POGOs are run by mostly Chinese businessmen and hire Chinese workers.
"Kung wala naman kita tayong nakukubra sa kanila, walang dahilan para magpatuloy sila ng operasyon. Pero kumpirmahin po muna natin dahil alam n'yo naman sa panahon ng pulitika, marami talagang impormasyon na ibinabato," Roque said in a press briefing.
(If we are not collecting any income from them, there is no reason for them to continue their operation. But we will confirm that first because you know, in the time of politics, a lot of information are thrown around.)
POGOs in 2019 yielded P6.42 billion in collections, Sen. Pia Cayetano earlier said.
However, the government could have collected around P38 billion from POGOs that year alone, said Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
Critics of the reopening of POGOs earlier cited alleged crimes linked to the industry, including bribery for the entry of Chinese workers, trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and tax violations, among others.
POGOs were suspended in 2020, along with other non-essential businesses, when the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed. Before they could reopen, they were asked to settle tax liabilities. Several companies have left the country since then.