Senator Joel Villanueva expressed support to a proposal to account the number of foreign workers employed in Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) in the hopes of generating tax payments and closing the gaps on the rise of illegal foreign workers in the country.
In a statement, Villanueva said he was alarmed by estimates of the Department of Finance (DOF) that the government loses at least P22 billion a year in income tax alone from foreign POGO workers.
“If the DOF’s estimate is correct, then we have been losing a lot of badly needed revenue. This is disappointing, considering that the agency responsible for regulating gambling seems to be missing out a lot when it comes to overseeing the industry,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development.
“If foreign workers want to work here, they have to follow our laws. They must pay the right taxes. They must secure the necessary working permits. They must obtain a proper working visa,” the senator continued. “At the moment, this budding industry generated employment, but not for our kababayans. Sino po ba dapat ang nakikinabang sa sitwasyon na ito? Dapat po tayong Pilipino ang nakikinabang.”
Finance department estimates showed that about 103,000 foreign workers are employed in 205 offshore gaming service providers, and they are paid an average of P78,000 a month. From the average income tax rate of 25 percent, each worker should pay about P18,750 in income tax every month.
Villanueva took the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) to task for the inconsistent data it presented to the interagency task force, and even to the Senate Committee on Labor during the Senate hearings. He scored the state gambling regulator for its failure to monitor the growing number of foreign workers employed by offshore gaming operators and service providers.
“At the committee hearing we conducted last February, the PAGCOR representative admitted that the agency does not monitor foreign workers employed in offshore gaming operators and service providers which they accredit and license,” the senator said. “This is clearly inconsistent with its policy of requiring all gaming facilities accredited by PAGCOR to ensure that all personnel who participate in gaming operations have a valid gaming employment license (GEL).”
GEL is “an authorization issued by PAGCOR granting a person the privilege to be employed as a gaming employee within the Philippine jurisdiction,” according to the regulator’s Gaming Employment License Manual.
Aside from regular and contractual employees hired by a licensee, among those required to obtain a GEL are “outsourced personnel or those hired through employment agencies whose tasks/functions require handling of or direct contact with gaming equipment or paraphernalia,” its manual said.
Villanueva has been looking into the proliferation of illegal foreign workers in the country, conducting public hearings on the issue. In February, the Bureau of Immigration credited the rise of POGOs as one of the reasons that triggered the influx of illegal foreign workers in the country.