Senator Joel Villanueva Wants Tighter Scrutiny Of POGO Industry

Senator Joel Villanueva urged the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to tighten the scrutiny and monitoring of the growing Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) industry.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, took the state gambling regulator to task for the apparent lack of regulation on the industry.

“PAGCOR’s work begins when it issues POGOs the necessary licenses to operate. They should do a better job in regulating offshore gaming firms, just as what they do with conventional gaming establishments such as casinos,” he said.

Villanueva noted that it took three years before the government started collecting taxes from the sector, citing a Department of Finance (DOF) estimate that the industry should be paying at least PHP2 billion a month in income taxes.

“We are already set back at least PHP60 billion in foregone revenue,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva said the industry could also be prone to illegal activities, as he challenged the Anti-Money Laundering Council to closely monitor the flow of money in the sector

“What worries me is if we can’t even tax them properly, how can we assure the public that these POGOs are not being used for illegal activities like money laundering?” he said.

Villanueva also argued that the sector does not create jobs for Filipinos because it hires primarily Chinese workers since the industry requires native speakers to cater to their clients in the mainland.

On Thursday, an inter-agency task force including the DOF signed a memorandum circular that expanded the guidelines and regulations governing foreign workers.

Among the changes it adopted are the requirement of getting a tax identification number for all foreign workers and the creation of an inter-agency database of foreign workers for monitoring.

The senator said he intends to file a resolution in the 18th Congress to closely examine the regulation of POGOs. (PNA)

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