New calls for POGO investigation over illegal immigration

19 September 2019

Senior Philippine politicians have filed a resolution calling for an investigation into reported irregularities in Philippine Offshore Gaming (POGO) centres in the latest action against the gambling hubs.

Minority leader Bienvenido Abante was one of the lawmakers who signed the letter urging the House of Representatives to look into matters such as illegal immigration and tax evasion relating to the hubs, which target Chinese nationals.

Abante and others acted after figures released by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier this week said some 6,600 foreign nationals continue to work for local online gambling hubs without government permits. It is thought that about ₱21.62bn (£332.7m/€374.1m/$413.8m) is owed to the Philippines’ exchequer in unpaid taxes.

Abante and others called for laws to be amended to stem an “unprecedented influx” of foreign workers, with most coming from China.

“There is a clear need on the part of the House of Representatives to conduct an investigation regarding these allegations and the way that the government is handling the situation, in order to legislate measures that will clearly regulate the POGO industry,” the resolution stated.

“The House of Representatives [should] direct the appropriate House Committee to conduct an investigation and inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the allegations of unregistered foreign workers, non-payment of income taxes, relative to the POGO Industry and […] Immigration Rules and Regulations and the Labor Code of the Philippines, due to the unprecedented influx of foreign workers for the POGO Industry, with the view of amending existing laws relating to effective revenue collection from foreign workers and effectively regulate the POGO Industry without detriment to the Filipino people and its workers.”

Earlier this week Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III ordered the country’s Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to shut down the operations of POGOs that fail or refuse to pay income tax. Dominguez issued the order after discovering that POGOs had largely failed to pay workers’ income taxes, despite repeated warnings from the government.

BIR deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa has asked for assistance from DOLE, the Bureau of Immigration and the country’s gambling regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) in closing down non-compliant POGOs.