Philippines, China 'not talking' about online gambling

MANILA, Philippines – Amid all the buzz and even red flags over Chinese online gambling companies doing business in the Philippines, it seems that the two countries are not really discussing the matter.

China bans all forms of gambling, but its citizens are still able to play games online because operations have gone offshore to countries like the Philippines where it is legal. (READ: Online gambling: Good for whose business?)

Foreign relations experts have said that China would like to put an end to gambling, but cannot impose on the Philippines – which enjoys the cash brought in by the booming industry.

The Philippine government has an inter-agency task force composed of the Department of Finance, Department of Labor and Employment, Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). 

However, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III reiterated that the agencies joined forces not to zero in on the industry, but to make sure all foreigners, whether Chinese or not, are paying the correct taxes. It just so happens that Chinese workers have been in the spotlight due to the glaring spike in their numbers.

"We are not talking to the Chinese government about it. This is a matter of their citizens...who work here and are subject to our tax laws. That's all," Dominguez said in a press briefing on Monday, July 1.

He said he cannot believe that Chinese online gambling workers only earn some $500 (P25,555) a month, since it is highly advertised overseas that gaming workers can earn as high as $10,000 (P511,100).

Dominguez said he wants "a level playing field" and wants foreigners to pay the right taxes.

Industry insiders and experts have pegged the number of online gambling workers at over 100,000. Dominguez said the revenues generated from them should be P2 billion a month.

The finance chief said the government will start collecting taxes from online gambling workers this July.

Pagcor regulates and collects fees from the 56 registered online gambling firms.

From January to April 2019, Pagcor posted an 11.4% revenue growth as its gross earnings reached P25.09 billion.

Bulk of it, or P23.84 billion, came from online gambling.

However, some gambling firms are able to evade the fees since they register as call centers or technology companies.

The inter-agency task force is looking into these companies so they can be held accountable.

"There is a benefit from all this discussion about the tax, that finally we will get the immigration [bureau] to look at exactly who are the foreigners here," Dominguez said. – Rappler.com

P51.11 = $1

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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