Although licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) have been given permission to continue operations from President Rodrigo Duterte, that doesn’t mean they are off the hook for their obligations. The Department of Finance (DOF) specifically wants to remind them that they have taxes to pay, or else.
Local outlet ABS-CBN News reports the DOF specifically warned POGOs that if all of their tax liabilities aren’t paid, including that of their foreign employees, they risk being shut down. “Why don’t we start closing them down so they will answer these assessments,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on September 13. “Those who don’t pay or respond to your assessments, clamp them down.”
The department has recently noted that they’ve mailed out 130 notices to POGOs, and expect there to be PHP 21.62 billion ($420 million) in tax liabilities. Of that amount, only PHP 1.4 billion ($23 million) has been collected in 2019.
To figure out this problem, it’s reported that the Labor department, the Bureau of Immigration and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) are collaborating. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) has suggested the government should have one centralized body to regulate the industry from end to end, to avoid further problems. TUCP president Raymond Mendoza said:
“Government agencies have limited authority and they cease to function on area that is beyond their mandate. The dis-coordination between and among these agencies might cause government to entirely lose control of the industry.”
Also seeking to provide suggestions is Kawit Mayor Angelo Emilio Aguinaldo, who’s Cavite province town has suggested building a POGO hub. He recommended to PAGCOR that a 70 hectare resort could be made on the site of the former Island Cove Resort, which as the name suggests, is a bridge-connected island where a now defunct resort is located. Aguinaldo said:
“To fully maximize our advantage and participate fully in this enterprise, the municipality wants to establish a POGO City—an LGU initiated project that can cater to interested holders of online gaming licenses to locate and utilize our proposed facilities.”
He suggested that the POGO city could have all the amenities foreign workers could need, and this would help solve the fear over POGO spies that has been suggested in Philippines media.
And those fears haven’t been made any better by recent stories in the press. A September 11 raid of a Chinese online investment scam was originally labeled as a POGO raid by some outlets. Unfortunately for the POGO industry, the current scare over foreign POGO employees is more likely to get clicks than something as routine (but more nefarious) as a crypto scam.