Tax-evading Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) will not be allowed to operate amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said POGOs must settle their tax debts with the government first before they can resume their operations.
Roque issued the statement after Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday urged the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) to collect the outstanding debt of POGOs amounting to PHP1.365 billion.
“Pero lahat po ng dapat bayaran ng mga POGO, dapat bayaran (POGOs must pay what they need to pay),” he said in a virtual press briefing. “Kung totoo po na hindi nababayaran, dapat bayaran po iyan. Otherwise, walang saysay ang pagbubukas ng POGOs sa atin (If it is true that they fail to pay, they should pay. Otherwise, it’s useless to allow the reopening of POGOs here).”
Citing a recent report from the Commission on Audit, Hontiveros said at least 15 POGOs have a total outstanding debt of PHP1.365 billion.
Hontiveros also lamented that three of the 15 tax-delinquent POGOs were still functioning, as of January 2021.
She added that eight of the 15 POGOs with unpaid taxes had their licenses revoked, three were under review, and one was suspended.
Roque said the Palace would verify Hontiveros’ claim before taking proper actions against the tax-evading POGOs.
“Pero kumpirmahin po muna natin dahil alam niyo naman, sa panahon ng politika, marami talagang impormasyon na binabato (Let’s confirm first before amid the political season, many are throwing too much information). We will confirm,” he said.
In May this year, Duterte allowed the partial resumption of POGOs to augment the government’s Covid-19 response funds.
POGOs, however, can only resume operations, on conditions that they settle taxes and obtain clearance from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, pay fees required by PAGCOR, and shoulder the Covid-19 testing of their employees.
Roque said Duterte only allowed POGOs operations because he considers the gaming operators as tax revenue generators amid the pandemic.“So, kung wala naman tayong kitang nakukubra sa kanila, walang dahilan para magpatuloy sila ng operasyon (if we won’t benefit from them, there’s no reason for them to continue their operations),” he said.