De Lima presses anew for Senate probe on foreign gaming firms

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has pressed anew for a Senate inquiry into the alleged failure of foreign gaming firms, particularly Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) establishments, to comply with proper taxation and lawful employment of their foreign workers.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution 1030 seeking a Senate inquiry into the reported failure of POGO firms to comply with government regulations on foreign workers, notably in paying appropriate personal income taxes due to the Philippine government.

“Given the huge discrepancy between the number of foreign POGO workers in the Philippines and tax revenues from them, there is a need to document all foreign workers to ensure the legality of their presence and identify their taxpayer classification,” she said.

Last March 6, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III claimed that the government is losing at least PhP3 billion in tax revenues a month from foreign POGO workers who do not pay personal income taxes.

Official estimates revealed that as of mid-2018, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has issued various forms of temporary work permits to around 95,000 foreign nationals working as POGO employees.

Doing the math, Dominquez calculated that from an estimated 100,000 foreign workers earning about USD2,5000 a month had to pay 25 percent personal income tax amounting to USD600.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, pointed out that the concerned government agencies should consolidate the list of foreign workers in the POGO industry to accurately determine their corresponding tax liability.

“These discrepancies in government records of foreign nationals employed in POGO establishments show how flawed our current registry and regulation system is and highlights the lack of a unified and harmonized effort among different agencies,” she said.

Agencies in charge of providing and registering POGO workers are the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“This failure of our government agencies to coordinate their regulatory activities could lead to serious issues, including those of criminality, national security, and possible abuse of our citizens by undocumented foreign nationals,” De Lima added.

Last November, De Lima has filed Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 953 seeking a Senate probe into what she called “loose regulatory policies” on the operations of casino-entertainment resorts, online gaming sites and junket casinos in the country.

As of September, the government has authorized 57 foreign gaming companies. To date, there are four integrated casino-entertainment resorts in Metro Manila situated near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to cater to their high-rolling, foreign clientele. In her SRN 953, De Lima noted more casinos are set to open in the coming years despite Mr. Duterte’s moratorium on new casinos effective January 2018, which may place the gambling and casino industry at serious risk of market saturation and oversupply.

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