BUSINESS

New kidnapping and tax threat hit POGO industry

TAGs: kidnapping, Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators, Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte

The online gaming industry in the Philippines continues to receive fire from both the government and the media. Another instance of kidnapping coming from the Philippine Online Gaming Operators (POGOs) is receiving sensational coverage, while a recent threat from President Duterte is causing waves as well.

POGO Kidnapping causes hysteria in the media

new-kidnapping-and-tax-threat-hit-pogo-industryA woman identified as Zhou Mei, a Chinese woman working in a POGO, was kidnapped in Makati while onlookers took video. The video quickly became a popular topic in Philippines social media channels, and local media got to work on uncovering as much of the case as they could.

Not much is known for sure about the crime, but local media have published the names of persons of interest and rehashed reports of previous POGO related kidnappings. The general focus of the story has been how the online gaming industry has created many instances of kidnapping, and a general trend of crime in the country. One reporter went so far as to ask Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat if the kidnapping would hurt tourism.

Although Makati Mayor Abby Binay has used recent POGO-phobia to ban new permits for the industry in her city, she was careful to stress that this appears to be an isolated incident. “While this is an isolated incident, we appeal to all Makatizens to take an active part in keeping our homes, streets and communities safe for us and our children,” said Binay.

Everyone ignores President Duterte

Meanwhile, the industry recently received a stern warning from President Rodrigo Duterte, who either offered to slap or shoot POGOs that didn’t settle their tax bills in 72 hours. Apparently though, whoever was supposed to do the slapping or shooting didn’t get the memo.

At a House hearing on December 10, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) was asked to provide an update on what happened after Duterte issued the warning. The answer was short and sweet: nothing.

Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) assistant commissioner James Roldan told the committee that only 10 locally incorporated POGOs are paying their franchise tax. 50 firms have not paid the five percent franchise tax the BIR has tried to collect.

One representative still wants to know more. “We would also like to ask for an update on the statement of the President that those Pogos who have not paid taxes have to pay, otherwise they will be closed. But no Pogo licensee has been closed after that remark by the President,” said Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.

Barzaga asked the operator to hand over data on how much the POGOs owed as well as how much they’ve paid so far.

So operators aren’t paying more tax, and none of the government agencies have done anything to punish them. Rep. Carlos Zarate noted to reporters that the POGOs “are not afraid of our tough-talking President.”

While there are certainly delinquent members of the POGO industry – certainly those that are completely underground – the responsible portion of the industry might need to be forgiven for not paying taxes that have yet to become law. The tax Roldan noted 50 firms have yet to pay is not yet encoded in law; it’s still working its way through the House.

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