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PH offshore gaming operators employ 138,000 foreigners

An inter-agency task force said Monday some 138,000 foreign nationals are employed in the Philippine offshore gaming operations.

It said the government could raise P32 billion in revenues if the foreign nationals in these Internet-based operations and other businesses were made to pay 25-percent income taxes.

The Labor Department and the Bureau of Immigration, in a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, came up with a reconciled list of 138,001 workers, of which 54,241 were issued alien employment permits and another 83,760 were granted special working permits.

Dominguez said assuming that each foreign national was earning an average of $1,500 a month and taxed at 25 percent of his or her gross income, the government could collect P32 billion a year in income taxes from these workers. 

Dominguez said he noticed that the names in the submitted list had no taxpayer identification numbers while the corresponding salaries reported were only around P20,000 each per month, which was “ridiculously low” for skilled foreign workers for Pogos.

Bureau of Internal Revenue deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa said the agency would start working on the list to check how many years these workers had stayed in the country and whether they had paid taxes for the last two taxable years. 

Guballa said the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. submitted a list of 126 out of 205 Pogos, which employed a total of 53,239 foreign workers with an average salary of about P41,000 each. 

Victor Padilla, Pagcor senior manager of policy division at offshore gaming licensing department, said penalties and demerits would be issued to those that had yet to comply with the requirement of submitting the lists of their respective foreign workers. 

Pagcor warned that it would seize the operations of those that remained non-compliant despite repeated warnings.

Guballa said during the meeting that other agencies such as the Public Works Department submitted the names of 52 foreign workers mostly in the construction sector while the Professional Regulation Commission sent a list of 75 foreign workers.  The Clark Development Corp. reported  2,463 foreign workers employed at the Clark and Subic special economic zones.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority and the SEZs in Bataan, Aurora, and other locations failed to submit their respective lists, Guballa said. 

“What you have to do now is to reconcile the entire list. The maximum we know is 138,000. I have a suspicion that this figure is low,” Dominguez said. 

He asked the concerned agencies such as the Labor Department and the Bureau of Immigration to find ways to reconcile the list by physically checking the establishments where the foreign workers were hired. 

“Enforce the law so we can collect the tax,” Dominguez said. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who heads the interagency task force, said his department had only 800 law compliance officers to do the job of checking the establishments. He said the department needed 5,000 LCOs.

BIR commissioner Caesar Dulay said one way to track down foreign workers was for the bureau to get a list of corporations and immediately audit them. 

Dominguez said he was expecting the task force to come up with a cleaned-up, reconciled list in 30 days for their next meeting. 

Topics: Department of Labor and Employment , Bureau of Immigration , Carlos Dominguez III , Bureau of Internal Revenue
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