One would think that there is now a Chinese invasion of the country not through the South China Sea where we have overlapping claims with China but through our immigration offices. This is because thousands of mostly young Chinese men and women working in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations or POGOs, are now seen everywhere, in shopping malls, restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
The Philippine economy in general is clearly benefiting from POGOs because they contribute to consumer spending and create a more vibrant real estate sector, and could be major source of government revenues.
But here’s the rub.
In his recent testimony in the Senate, Atty. Sixto Dy Jr. from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) disclosed that in 2019 a total of P50 billion in withholding income and franchise taxes from POGOs have not been collected. He said that all POGOs are not paying their franchise tax.
Last year, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor} collected only P8 billion as regulatory fee on POGOs. If Pagcor has collected the franchise tax, it could have collected at least P17 to P18 billion for that year.
There were also some reports that POGOs have contributed to the rise of criminal activities, such as kidnappings and prostitution involving Chinese nationals.
So, what then are we supposed to do? Shall we totally ban POGOs as called for by some of our self-righteous legislators who believe that gambling per se is demonic?
We believe that if the government is not inutile enough and can collect the proper taxes due from POGOs and that its operations are fully regulated, then we should allow its continued operations. After all, we allow the proliferation of casinos in the Entertainment City where Filipinos can freely play while POGOs are exclusively for Chinese clients. As to the reported rise in crimes this is inherent in any gambling operations and our law-enforcement agencies can handle this.