A HOUSE COMMITTEE heard estimates of employee numbers in the offshore gaming industry that far exceeded the population of workers registered for tax purposes with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

The House Ways and Means Committee heard on Tuesday an estimate from real estate sources that the number of workers in the industry, whose members are known as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), of between 400,000 and 800,000, significantly larger than the BIR-registered 108,940, raising questions about whether such workers are properly taxed.

Representative Estrellita B. Suansing of Nueva Ecija’s first district cited the estimate of POGO employee numbers made by David Leechiu, Co-Founder and CEO of Leechiu Property Consultants. Property firms have extensive dealings with POGOs and are in a position to estimate office populations based on floor space.

BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel SD. Guballa told the panel: “Ang registered po dito na submitted by PAGCOR to BIR is 108,940 individuals (Registered employees based on the list submitted by the Philippine Amusements And Gaming Corp is 108,940 individuals).”

Ms. Suansing added: “Sixty lang ang licensed (POGOs with PAGCOR). 100 ang unlicensed. Tapos nyo (BIR), out of 60, 10 lang ang registered… Yung 60 na yun habulin ninyo. Baka nandun yung P104 billion niyo na shortfall (Pangcor has 60 licensed POGOS and 100 are unlicensed. Of the 60, only 10 are registered with the BIR. You need to run after the rest of the 60 and maybe you can make up your P104 billion shortfall)” Ms. Suansing said, referring to the BIR’s shortfall against its revenue target.

“What BIR is doing is we are asking the Bureau of Immigration (about) all these foreign workers entering our country. But the problem is we cannot get the data.” Mr. Guballa said. — Genshen L. Espedido