Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and Robinhood “Robin” Padilla have expressed their opposition to the proposal to prohibit Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs), citing its contributions to the Philippine economy.
The senators said that the total shutdown of POGOs in the country is not the solution to the recent increase in kidnapping cases in the country.
In a statement, Estrada said that authorities should instead go after illegal or unlicensed offshore gaming operators.
“It is unfair to impose a total ban on POGOs, which will affect legitimate companies that are running their business here in the country in accordance with our laws,” he said.
“I would rather see these POGOs being made to strictly comply with a 70-percent Filipino staffing requirement to ensure the availability of local jobs,” he added.
Likewise, Revilla said that he does not believe that shutting down the entire POGO industry is the solution the country needs in addressing the issues plaguing its operations, citing that is mostly a concern of law enforcement.
“The Department of Finance (DoF) projects the POGO industry to generate 50 billion to 70 billion pesos in tax revenues in 2022 to 2023 after new taxes mandated by Republic Act No. 11590 took effect this next year,” he said.
“I feel bad for the earnings that the government may acquire from the industry if we will just impose a ban on the industry just because of the erring ones,” he added.
The lawmaker stressed that the government should instead go after those who are involved in illegal activities and provide a healthy business environment for law-abiding and compliant establishments.
“We should also ensure that those doing business pay the correct taxes that our country badly needs. Those who are evading taxes should be closed along with those who are involved in illegal activities,” he said.
Meanwhile, Padilla said that there are government agencies that can help address the problems brought by the industry.
For instance, the tax obligations of the industry should be addressed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), according to the lawmaker.
“If they have problems with the tax, the BIR should address this. As far as I know, it should bring at least P3 billion to the national coffers,” he said.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who earlier expressed his support to ban POGO operations in the country, said that in 2021, the total revenue for POGO plunged to P3.9 billion from P7.2 billion in 2020.
Padilla said that at first, he does not in favor of the POGO operations in the country, citing his religion, however, he said that it recognized its contributions to the economy.
“I want to clarify that as first, I don’t want it because I am a Muslim, we are prohibited to do it. However, they are paying taxes,” he said.
“If they have a problem with the crimes, it is the problem of the law enforcement agencies. If they have problems with undesirable aliens, it should be the Bureau of Immigration. If they are not paying the right taxes, we should blame the BIR. Why blame it on the POGO?” he stressed.
On Monday, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said that the majority bloc, which he leads, will wait for the committee report of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa before deciding whether to pass a measure that will prohibit POGOs in the country.
Dela Rosa, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, earlier said that his panel will come up with a recommendation this week on whether to ban the industry or continue regulating it in the country.
Last week, the panel conducted a hearing on the two separate resolutions to probe the recent rise of cases of kidnappings, abductions, and other crimes in the country.
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