Malacañang said Monday Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (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.
Roque’s statement came after Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) reported that two major POGO firms already left the country, and more could exit due to tax “issues” with the government.
PAGCOR chair and chief executive officer Andrea Domingo confirmed that Suncity, a unit of Macau’s gambling giant Suncity Group, has left the Philippines.
She added that “there are others more that are leaving the Philippines” that would not impact the government’s revenue but also the 30,521 Filipinos working for POGO companies.
PAGCOR said Don Tencess Asian Solutions also officially filed to cancel its license to operate in the Philippines.
“The failure of POGOs to adhere to our laws resulted in their exit. This is what happened, plain and simple,” he added.
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.
Exit of POGOs ‘not a loss’
Sen. Joel Villanueva said the looming Exodus of POGOs in the Philippines is not a loss to the country’s economy.
“The exiting POGO companies should still pay the taxes they owe us. Otherwise, we should blacklist them and name them publicly so that other countries will be warned about the behavior of these companies,” he said.
“They will not be a loss to the Philippine economy. We should attract companies that invest in Filipino people. Good riddance,” said the senator who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.
Aside from Villanueva, other senators were also vocal in opposing POGO operations in the country. They said the gambling companies caused criminal activities such as prostitution, money laundering, and corruption in the Immigration bureau.
“Hindi ako totally anti-POGO sa totoo lang. Ang problema ko naman bakit yung pagpapatakbo natin ng POGO, bakit may rights with violations?” Senate Committee on Economic Affairs Imee Marcos told reporters in an online press conference.
“Napakagulo naman. Wag naman ganun,” she said.