By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Joel Villanueva is supporting legislation seeking to impose taxes on offshore gaming operations (POGOs) in the country.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development, dismissed as unfounded the concerns of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) against the over-taxation of the offshore gaming industry.
He said it is only proper to tax POGOs as he believed that it has been poorly regulated since its inception and has already cost the country more than what it would lose from taxing the sector.
“Halos tatlong taon po ang lumipas bago napapayag ng ating pamahalaan na magbayad ng tamang buwis ang mga POGO. Hindi na po natin mababalik ang nawalang pagkakataon para kumulekta ng buwis (It’s been almost three year before our government was convinced that POGOs should pay the correct taxes. We will not be able to bring back lost opportunities for us to collect taxes from them),” Villanueva said in a statement on Thursday.
“Kaya po suportado natin ang hakbang na magpasa ng batas na maglalagay na malinaw na panuntunan sa pagpataw ng buwis sa mga POGO upang maging klaro ang interpretasyon sa ating tax code (That’s why we support the move to pass a law that would give clear guidelines on imposing taxes on POGOs which is a clear interpretation of our tax code),” he added.
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means recently approved House Bill No. 5267 seeking to impose a five percent franchise tax on POGOs.
The bill also proposes to collect another 25-percent levy from the salaries, compensation, and allowances of foreign POGO workers who earn at least P600,000 a year.
But Pagcor chairman Andrea Domingo warned lawmakers against slapping offshore gaming operations with hefty taxes, saying it may pave the way for more illegal operations.
There are currently 60 POGO operators and 218 POGO service providers operating in the country.
In backing the House bill, Villanueva said the lax regulation of POGOs has caused “social ills” to the country.
“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? No amount of money can reverse the impact of social ills that this sector has brought to our shores,” he said.
He reiterated that the benefits of the POGO sector are “minimal.”
“If the property boom is the only economic benefit we can 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,” he maintained.
He said its poor regulation could also be a “breeding ground” for illegal activities such as money laundering.
Villanueva told Pagcor to do its mandate of keeping POGO firms in check, rather than being “passive as the case has been in the past years.”