Senator Risa Hontiveros said Tuesday that Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) should still make POGOs settle their unpaid taxes even if they would exit the country.
PAGCOR earlier reported the looming exit of POGOs after two major Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators left the Philippines due to tax issues with the government.
“The sudden closure of these POGOS should not allow them to escape accountability and justice. Huwag natin payagan na pagkatapos nila kumita ng bilyon-bilyon dito sa ating bansa sa loob ng ilang taon, ay biglang tatakbuhan na lang ng mga POGO ang utang nilang buwis na tinatayang aabot sa Php70 billion,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
(Let’s not allow that after they have made billions in our country for a few years, POGOs would suddenly evade their tax debt of around Php70 billion.)
“POGO firms whose management and workers are involved in kidnapping, human trafficking, prostitution of women and children, unfair labor practice and other criminal activities should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she added.
On Monday, Senators Franklin Drilon and Joel Villanueva welcomed the looming exodus of POGOs as “good riddance.”
“Hindi kailangan ng Pilipinas ang isang industriya na walang ibang hatid kundi krimen, pang-aabuso, at pambibiktima ng Pilipino, lalo na laban sa kababaihan at mga menor de edad,” Hontiveros said.
(The Philippines does not need an industry that only brings crime, abuse, and victimization, especially against women and minorities.)
Hontiveros also noted that the government should also aid the 30,000 Filipinos who might lose jobs as POGO firms exit the country.
“With unemployment among Filipinos already at a record high, the Department of Labor and Employment should help these workers immediately find new jobs, businesses, or other sources of income,” she said.
Also read: Drilon: Looming POGO exodus a good news
Malacañang also said Monday POGOs that would not settle their unpaid taxes could say “goodbye” and leave the country.
“We need them because we need the revenues, but unless they pay up, goodbye,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised briefing.
In May, the government allowed POGOs to resume operations as long as they would settle their unpaid taxes with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) first and comply with COVID-19 protocols.
The decision to reopen POGOs was to augment the government’s fund for COVID-19 response.