Senator Joel Villanueva has described the over taxation concern on Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) as unfounded, saying its poor regulation has contributed to mounting social concerns like the rising property prices and increase in criminality and illegal activity.
Villanueva expressed support Thursday for the move to impose taxes on this particular sector of the gaming industry, which has seen unhampered growth in the past three years.
He said it took three years before POGO was convinced “by our government to pay the right taxes. We can no longer return lost opportunity to collect taxes.”
“So we are supporting initiatives to pass laws that will put clear rules in the imposition of taxes on POGO to have a clear interpretation of our tax code.”
“How can we put a price on this sector’s impact on the rising social concerns such as the growing property prices and increase in crimes, among other issues?” added Villanueva, who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development.
“No amount of money can reverse the impact of social ills that this sector has brought on our shores.”
Villanueva stressed that the benefits of the POGO sector were minimal at best because of its limited impact to the economy.
The sector has shown preference to hire foreigners, rather than locals, primarily because these offshore firms’ main clientele are mainland Chinese nationals.
On the other hand, the real estate sector has been recording brisk demand for office space and residential lease because of POGOs as well.
“If the property boom is the only economic benefit we can cite attribute to POGOs, then it is only right that we should impose more taxes on it. It is not only making our workers worse off by making rent prices higher and office space more expensive, it is also driving the cost of business operations higher as well, to the detriment of local entrepreneurs,” said the senator.
The lax regulation of the sector could also be a breeding ground for illegal activity such as money laundering because bets are placed online, far from the reach of regulators such as the Anti-Money Laundering Council which monitors the occurrence of the illicit activity.
He called on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to exercise its regulatory mandate to keep POGO firms in check, instead of being “passive as the case has been in the past years.”