THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said it requires more interagency cooperation to properly estimate the number of workers employed by the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (POGO) industry.

“What we need is people to help us enforce. It’s an inter-agency coordinating committee because we want to know how many are really here. Some have been licensed by PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.), others remain unlicensed. So we sent out letters to them after checking our integrated tax system data,” BIR Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay told reporters on the sidelines of a Senate hearing Thursday.

In April, the BIR said it has created an interagency task force with the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to consolidate data on foreign workers.

There is no official count yet on the number of foreign workers in the industry, with government estimates based indirectly on the number of work permits issued. The work permits, however, do not capture the number of undocumented workers.

With the POGO industry, ”we continue to enforce the law. That’s the only requirement, for them to comply with the law. To pay the right taxes,” Mr. Dulay said.

BIR, the largest revenue-generating agency, started collecting taxes from foreign workers employed by POGOs in early July and ordered the companies to remit withholding taxes from the workers by Aug. 10.

The BIR said it has so far collected P200 million worth of tax remittances from POGO companies as of early August.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III has said that the government foregoes revenue of about P2 billion a month for every 100,000 unregistered POGO workers that do not pay withholding tax on their earnings, or about P24 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dulay said PAGCOR will address the concerns of the Chinese embassy on the establishment of POGO hubs, adding that the BIR is only concerned with collecting taxes.

“[As for the Chinese embassy’s concerns] that’s for Pagcor to address… Our concern is to collect taxes.

The Chinese embassy expressed “grave concerns” about PAGCOR plans to relocate the industry to what a PAGCOR official called “self-contained hubs,” and raised concerns that such a move could violate the rights of Chinese citizens working in the country.

In response, PAGCOR said the hubs will serve as “protection” for the workers, who will retain their freedom of movement. — Beatrice M. Laforga