Malacañang said Monday it is willing to let the Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs to leave the country should they fail to pay the right taxes.
“They can leave the country if they cannot pay the taxes,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
“Our position is clear: If they want to stay, they have to pay the right taxes. They have to follow the rules and regulations and health guidelines set by the government.”
But Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government would still collect the taxes owed by the POGOS that intend to close their operations here.
The state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. over the weekend confirmed that two offshore gaming firms, including a unit of Macau’s gambling giant Suncity Group, had already left the country.
Citing a report from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Dominguez said one of the Pogos (Don Tences Asian Services Solutions Inc.) was a local licensee and was already paying the franchise tax. But the BIR said the company would be investigated before it was cleared to close shop.
Senator Joel Villanueva said the reported exodus of the POGOS due to tax issues showed they had contributed very little to the Philippine economy.
"POGOs won't be a big loss to the Philippine economy. We should attract companies that invest in the Filipino people. Good riddance," said Villanueva, chairman of the Senate’s labor committee.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the reported exodus of the POGOs due to tax issues was good news.
"Let them go. They’re not a big loss and we should not go after them," he said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, urged PAGCOR to revoke the licenses of the POGOs that are failing to settle their tax deficiencies which, she said, amounted to at least P50 billion in 2019.
“PAGCOR should exercise its regulatory powers and come down hard on the tax-evading POGOs,” she said.
Roque said the POGOS’ exit would be a big loss to the Philippines’ income since the POGOs were providing billions of pesos through taxes. Vito Barcelo, Julito Rada and Macon Ramos-Araneta
“Well, we need them because we need the revenues. But unless they pay up, goodbye,” Roque said.
He says many POGOs, which are being operated mostly by the Chinese, have expressed their intention to leave the online casino industry here because of the high taxes being imposed by the government.
PAGCOR earlier confirmed that Suncity had ceased its offshore gaming operations, adding it expected more companies to shut down.
China recently stepped up its crackdown on cross-border gambling and arresting thousands allegedly involved in the illegal activity.
The Philippine government earlier allowed the partial operations of POGOs subject to certain conditions, and after reclassifying their industry as part of the business process outsourcing sector.
POGOs were previously categorized as amusement and gaming establishments that were prohibited when the lockdown was implemented across Luzon in March.
Many of them reportedly could not yet reopen due to the tax requirements imposed by the government.