The minority leader in the House of Representatives has sought a congressional investigation into the operations of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators industry in light of allegations that this has led to the influx of unregistered foreign workers and government revenue losses as a result of non-payment of income taxes relative to the industry.
Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, Jr., the bloc’s leader, filed House Resolution 337 asking Congress to review laws to allow the government to regulate the industry and to ensure that the government is able to properly collect revenues from its operations.
He asked the appropriate committee in the Chamber to look into “the allegations of unregistered foreign workers, non-payment of income taxes relative to POGO, and the related issues on the effective implementation of Section 25, 1997 NIRC (National Internal Revenue Code), Immigration Rules and Regulations, and the Labor Code of the Philippines due to the unprecedented influx of foreign workers for the POGO Industry.”
HR 337 was co-authored by Reps. Eduardo “Eddie” Villanueva of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC), Rozzano Rufino Biazon of Muntinlupa and Manuel Luis Lopez of Manila.
Abante said the inquiry was long overdue “given the numerous issues that have surfaced regarding the POGO industry.”
“Department of Labor (DOLE) data shows that there are 63,855 documented foreign nationals working in the POGO industry. But there are some estimates that peg the number at 120,000, and until today the government is still reconciling its data,” said Abante.
“The fact that we cannot even accurately account for these workers is troubling. If we have problems with regard to their documentation, then we will definitely have issues properly determining revenue collection,” he added.
Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II said earlier this month that the Department of Finance estimates that around P2 billion’ worth of personal income taxes are not being collected from POGO workers on a monthly basis.
Lambino added that “our estimate is that two billion pesos a month are not being collected from personal income taxes and that is why an interagency task force has been formed by the DOF in order to make sure who is here in the country working in the sector.”
Abante said that aside from the revenue losses, he and other lawmakers were disturbed by reports that POGO hubs have been established in what Department of Defense (DND) Sec. Delfin Lorenzana referred to as strategic locations.
Philippine defense installations near the Chinese online casinos include Camp Aguinaldo, the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, the Air Force headquarters in Pasay City, the Philippine Army headquarters in Taguig City, the Philippine Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard, and Sangley Point in Cavite.
“What kind of possible threats do these POGO hubs near our defense installations represent? These and other concerns are what we want to address in an inquiry,” Abante said.