Four lawmakers have called for a congressional inquiry into the operations of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry in light of allegations that the booming business has led to the influx of unregistered foreign workers and government revenue losses as a result of non-payment of income taxes relative to the industry.

House Resolution No. 337—filed on Monday by Minority Leader and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr., Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Party-list Rep. Eduardo “Bro. Eddie” Villanueva, Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, and Manila 1st District Rep. Manuel Luis Lopez—urges Congress to conduct an investigation “on the allegations of unregistered foreign workers, non-payment of income taxes relative to POGO, and the related issues on the effective implementation of Section 25, 1997 NIRC (National Internal Revenue Code), Immigration Rules and Regulations, and the Labor Code of the Philippines due to the unprecedented influx of foreign workers for the POGO Industry” with the end in view of amending laws to allow the government to effectively regulate the industry and to ensure that the government is able to properly collect revenues from its operations.

“What kind of possible threats do these POGO hubs near our defense installations represent?”

According to Abante, the inquiry was long overdue “given the numerous issues that have surfaced regarding the POGO industry.”

“Department of Labor (DOLE) data shows that there are 63,855 documented foreign nationals working in the POGO industry. But there are some estimates that peg the number at 120,000, and until today the government is still reconciling its data,” said the legislator. 

“The fact that we cannot even accurately account for these workers is troubling. If we have problems with regard to their documentation, then we will definitely have issues properly determining revenue collection,” lamented Abante. 

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II said earlier this month that the Department of Finance (DOF) estimates around P2 billion in personal income taxes are not being collected from POGO workers on a monthly basis. 

Lambino revealed that “our estimate is that P2 billion a month are not being collected from personal income taxes and that is why an inter-agency task force has been formed by the DOF in order to make sure who is here in the country working in the sector.”

“We will definitely have issues properly determining revenue collection.”

Abante said that aside from the revenue losses, he and other lawmakers were disturbed by reports that POGO hubs have been established in what Department of Defense (DND) Sec. Delfin Lorenzana refered to as strategic locations. 

Philippine defense installations near the Chinese online casinos include Camp Aguinaldo, the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, the Air Force headquarters in Pasay City, the Philippine Army headquarters in Taguig City, the Philippine Navy headquarters in Roxas Boulevard, and Sangley Point in Cavite.

“What kind of possible threats do these POGO hubs near our defense installations represent? These and other concerns are what we want to address in an inquiry,” explained the solon.


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