POGOs should pay P20 billion in franchise taxes: Barbers
MANILA - A lawmaker on Thursday reiterated the need to collect around P18 billion to P20 billion in franchise tax from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) as he believes that they are covered under the law after they have secured their license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporations (PAGCOR).
“Itong aking paniwala na while nag-secure sila ng license, ng permit to operate under PAGCOR, sila po ay regulated ng PAGCOR. Dahil sila ay regulated ng PAGCOR, dapat isa doon sa regulasyon ay magbabayad sila ng 5 percent franchise tax,” Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
The Office of the Solicitor General in 2019 said POGOs cannot be taxed because offshore operations are considered outside the Philippines.
Barbers, however, said POGOs cannot deny that they have a physical presence in the country.
"Unang-una merong silang mga opisina rito. Meron silang imported na empleyado dito. Dinala nga nila dito kanilang empleyado, 'yung iba pinagdududahan natin na hindi naman nagtatrabaho sa POGO dahil marami na pong Chinese citizens na kung saan saan nasasangkot na criminal activity,” he said.
He urged the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue to clarify the matter and even bring it up to the Supreme Court.
Barbers, who chairs the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, also noted that of the 60 POGOs granted permits by PAGCOR, only 10 are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The Bureau of Internal Revenue earlier said that eight of the 11 POGOs with permits from PAGCOR have been refusing to pay licensing fees.
“Siguro humahanap lang ng palusot para hindi magbayad. Dapat manindigan dito ang PAGCOR na huwag paoperatin ‘yan basta hindi nagbayad. Ngayon, sa panahon na ito, nangangailangan tayo ng pondo,” he said.
He said many POGOs are being linked to money laundering, drug den operations, prostitution and trafficking, kidnapping and other illegal activities in the county.
He said the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Labor and Employment should make public the status of Chinese POGO workers in the country.
“Ilan ba talaga sila dito? Bakit merong kuwento na may 150,000 excess POGO workers. Bakit may excess? Ilan ba naisyung visa upon arrival? Ilan ba 'yung work permits kasi kaya siguro nagkakaroon ng idea na merong excess na 150,000 POGO illegal workers dahil walang work permits. Dapat matingnan natin 'yun,” he said.