Senator Joel Villanueva described the overtaxation concern on Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) as unfounded, saying its poor regulation has contributed to mounting social concerns such as rising property prices and an increase in criminality and illegal activities.
In a statement, Villanueva expressed support for the move to impose taxes on this particular sector of the gaming industry, which has seen unhampered growth over the past three years.
“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,” the veteran legislator pointed out. “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.”
“How can we put a price on this sector’s impact on the rising social concerns.”
“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?” added the seasoned lawmaker who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development. “No amount of money can reverse the impact of social ills that this sector has brought on our shores.”
The senator explained that the benefits of the POGO sector are minimal at best because of its limited impact to the economy.
The sector has shown preference to hire foreigners, rather than locals, primarily because these offshore firms’ main clientele are mainland Chinese nationals. On the other hand, the real estate sector has been recording brisk demand for office space and residential lease because of POGOs as well.
“It is not only making our workers worse off by making rent prices higher and office space more expensive.”
“If the property boom is the only economic benefit we can cite 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 said.
The lax regulation of the sector could also be a breeding ground for illegal activity such as money laundering because bets are placed online, far from the reach of regulators such as the Anti-Money Laundering Council which monitors the occurrence of the illicit activity.
Villanueva called on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to exercise its regulatory mandate to keep POGO firms in check, instead of being “passive as the case has been in the past years.”