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Only tax-compliant POGO may operate

TDT

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The various Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGO need to settle their 2019 tax obligations first before they are allowed to resume partial operations, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said on Friday.

“In order for POGO service providers to be allowed to operate, they must pay their 2019 income tax liabilities, or in the case of POGO franchisees, the franchise tax of 2019,” Dominguez told financial reporters.

According to him, both the service provider and POGO licensee must remit to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) all current 2020 withholding tax liabilities as well.

The Finance chief said whether one is a service provider or licensee, each must execute an undertaking to pay the BIR all their tax arrears and only then will the BIR issue a tax clearance allowing them to operate.

POGO service providers, while classified as business process outsourcing or BPO companies, are not shielded from honoring their tax obligations, the tax authorities earlier said.

Dominguez reiterated that an “express provision of law granting tax exemption” must be present for the various POGO to be excluded from tax payments.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) welcomed Abra Rep. JB Bernos’ call for a stronger vetting process for POGO firms following a crackdown on illegal operations on 5 May.

“As the country’s gaming regulator, PAGCOR likewise denounces all forms of illegal gambling in the country — whether it is land-based or online. Hence, we welcome this recent move by authorities to apprehend illegal online gaming operators or what we now officially call NOGO (non-registered offshore gaming operators),” the PAGCOR said.

Likewise, the Association of POGO Service Providers (APSP) welcomed the arrest and closure of illegal POGO operations in the country.

“We do not condone, abet, or tolerate any form of these illegal operations. Their existence prejudices the interests of legitimate POGO operators subjecting our members to unfair criticisms,” the APSP said.

PAGCOR earlier worked with such agencies such as the Philippine National Police, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration tracking and closing illegally operating NOGOs in the country.

Separately, the Accredited Service Providers of PAGCOR (ASPAP) on Friday assured of consistent and mindful observance of all protocols established under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and that the safety of everyone is top priority.

This develops as the regulator welcomes a proposed inquiry by Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros into the partial resumption of POGO operations, saying this was an opportunity to clear the issues raised and clarify the disinformation hounding the matter.

In a statement, ASPAP spokesman Margarita Gutierrez said the association will cooperate with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and relevant agencies in clarifying the confusion that has ensued.

“We wish to reassure our legislators and the public the resumption of POGO operations would not undermine the ECQ or pose unnecessary health risk to the community,” Gutierrez said.

“Aside from stringent health and safety protocols imposed as pre-requisite to reopening, only 30 percent of the workforce, mostly Filipinos who must test negative for COVID-19, are allowed to return to work,” she added.

The ASPAP noted that thus far, the POGO has been spared of the contagion and its employees advised against congregating in venues accessible to the general public.

“In the same breath, we wish to underscore that our operations are an important component to the country’s road to recovery from the devastating effects of the pandemic plague. Moving forward, we can only hope that a smoother cooperation between the private and public enterprises shall take precedence over any misimpression or miscalculation,” Gutierrez added.

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