Finance department zeroes in on foreign online gambling workers

MANILA, Philippines – Besides ensuring that foreigners working in online gambling comply with tax laws, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is looking at the possibility of identifying where these workers are located.

In a statement given to reporters over the weekend, Dominguez said it is important for the government to find out who and where all these workers are, given the "national security implications" and their large presence in the country.

Most workers in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) are Chinese.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) earlier released Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 78-2018, requiring all foreign and Philippine-based gaming operators to register with the agency as a prerequisite to the renewal of their Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) licenses.

The circular mandates that the BIR identify and monitor tax payments, including remittances of taxes withheld on foreigners working for POGOs.

Moreover, Dominguez said the list of foreigners working in POGOs should be consolidated and reconciled by the various agencies and offices involved in screening, providing work permits, and registering them here in the country.

These agencies are: 

"If we get all that [information], then it is possible that we can begin to  collect taxes, enforcing the law on these foreign workers who are operating here. Isn't that what we really want to do here, enforce the law?" Dominguez said in a meeting regarding the matter.  

BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa said BIR data lists 54 POGO licensees, of which 10 are local firms and 44 are offshore operators. Of the local operators, only 7 are registered, while only 8 of the offshore licensees are registered with the BIR.

Meanwhile. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that as of June 2018, less than 95,000 foreigners were issued various forms of temporary work permits by the BI, as POGO employees. (READ: Senators want crackdown vs illegal Chinese workers)

But Pagcor Chairperson Andrea Domingo pointed out that the BI's figure is not accurate because foreign workers who were given 6-month special working permits (SWPs) may have already secured provisional working permits and remained on the list of those still with SWPs, while those with provisional working permits may have already been issued alien employment certificates by DOLE. 

"The numbers may overlap," Domingo said.

The Pagcor chief also committed to provide the complete list of POGO service providers and require them to provide information on their workers and their salaries.

Dominguez said the DOF and other agencies will meet after 30 days. By that time, he expects a complete and clean list of foreigners working in offshore gaming operations. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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