A SENATE panel on Tuesday recommended the suspension of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) after learning foregone revenues in 2019 hit an estimated P50 billion.

Isuspende muna ang lahat ng POGO operations hangga’t hindi natin naaayos ang ating mga patakaran,” Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said in a briefing, Tuesday.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in a hearing at the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development said some P50 billion is lost for POGOs’ failure to pay corporate tax, and franchise tax among others.

“Assuming based sa 25%, that’s almost P30 B (sa withholding tax), For 2019, Pagcor collected P8 B in regulatory fees, so I think that’s only 2 percent. If 5% franchise tax, that would be at least P17-18 B, so maybe sir almost P50 B,” BIR chief of staff Sixto C. Dy, Jr. of the Deputy Commissioner for Operations said during the hearing.

Mr. Dy also raised before the panel that all 50 foreign-based POGO firms have failed to remit the 5% franchise tax.

“Hundred percent of the foreign-based licensees are not paying the franchise tax,” Mr. Dy said.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) explained it has no regulatory power to over the franchise tax, but said it will conduct an investigation at the recommendation of the BIR.

“If we receive reports from BIR regarding this, I think we will be empowered to do something at least to sanction them to cease their operations,” Pagcor Vice-President for Corporate Social Responsibility James Patrick Bondoc said in the same hearing.

“Immediately, we will investigate,” he added, upon prodding of Mr. Villanueva.

On top of this, the panel found the inconsistent data reported by concerned agencies prove it is not prepared to regulate the industry just yet. He added that the industry has also resulted in the increase of criminal activities in Makati alone.

‘Look on the social costs yung kapulisan natin, inamin na nag-spike ang criminal activities sa Makati alone from 100 to 200 naging 400 plus at kaya ang city of makati recommended na hindi muna mag-entertain ng mga lisensya ng pagcor o magbigay ng business permit dito sa mga pogos na ito,” Mr. Villanueva said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan