Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers is urging the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and Bureau of Internal Revenue and other concerned agencies to shut down operations and send home all Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) in the country.
He cited the recent disclosure of a ranking BIR official that majority of the 60 licensed POGOs failed to pay about P50 billion in withholding income and franchise tax in 2019.
“The government allowed POGOs to operate here because of the projected revenues they would provide and help our economy. But if the Philippine government would be shortchanged on this, then it is time to shut down their operations and send them home,” he said.
But ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, House committee on games and amusements chairperson, instead batted for a moratorium on the hiring of new POGO employees.
Yap, however, commended PAGCOR for ordering all POGOs and service providers to impose a 10-day quarantine on all newly hired and returning employees from countries with reported cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“In addition to this order, we see the immediate need for POGO operators and service providers to issue a moratorium on hiring new employees and accepting the returning employees coming overseas as long as there is a threat of the virus,” he said.
“Our priority is the safety of our countrymen. What good is the earnings from POGOs if our country is at stake due to threats of COVID-19,” he added.
In a recent Senate hearing, lawyer Sixto Dy Jr. from the BIR Office of the Deputy Commission for Operations bared that all foreign-based POGO licensees were not paying their franchise tax in 2019 worth at least P17 to P18 billion pesos.
“This is what’s all I’m talking about during a privilege speech I delivered sometime last year. I already warned that these POGOs could only bring social, labor and security problems for the country, like being used as money laundering tools by international drug traffickers and other crime syndicates,” Barbers said.
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