ECONOMIC benefits from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) have been declining, a Finance official said on Wednesday, but totally closing the sector could still cost the country P64.61 billion annually based on estimates.   

Department of Finance Undersecretary Maria Cielo D. Magno, speaking at a House Committee on Labor and Employment meeting, said taxes including corporate, personal income, and other taxes collected from registered POGOs decreased P3.91 billion in 2021 from P7.18 billion the previous year.  

This year could see some recovery with P3.9 billion already collected from Jan. to July.  

Revenue collected by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), which issues licenses to offshore gaming operators, has also been on a downtrend.  

From P8.02 billion in 2019, PAGCORs collections went down to P5.28 billion in 2020, then 3.47 billion last year. From Jan.-July this year, collections stood at P1.7 billion.   

Ms. Magno said these tax and revenue drops are likely due to the formalization of the sector and new tax policies.”   

On the other hand, she said discontinuing POGOs would mean losses of P64.61 billion in direct economic contributions or about 0.3% of the gross domestic product, based on estimates by the Finance department.    

The biggest toll would be on income from housing space rentals at P25.17 billion, followed by office space rentals at P16.63 billion.   

Negative impact would also be felt in tax collections, PAGCOR revenues, personal consumption of POGO workers, transportation, and insurance.  

Crimes spawned by both legal and illegal offshore gaming operations have recently sparked debates in Congress on whether the economic benefits of the sector outweigh social costs.    

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) was set on Wednesday to deport six Chinese nationals who had been working in an illegal offshore gaming company.  

In a letter to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla dated Oct. 17, BI Commissioner Norman G. Tansingco said the six foreigners would be deported to Wuhan, China by 2:40 p.m.  

“The Border Control and Intelligence Unit shall assist the BI-Warden Facility officials once the deportees arrive at the airport terminal to ensure smooth processing and escorting,” he said.  

The six foreigners were turned over to the immigration bureau by the police following a raid on an illegal POGO firm in Pampanga, a province north of the capital.  

Mr. Remulla told an online briefing on Tuesday that the six Chinese workers would be leaving the Philippines voluntarily.  

The Justice department earlier said the government has revoked the visas of more than 1,400 Chinese nationals working in these illegal offshore gaming companies whose licenses had been canceled.  

The government started cracking down on mostly Chinese gambling companies that offer online gambling services to markets outside the country after a spate of kidnappings mainly victimizing Chinese nationals.  

Last month, Mr. Remulla met with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to discuss the deportation of those behind the illegal gambling outfits.  

China earlier said it would help Philippine law enforcers tackle crimes linked to offshore gambling. Kyanna Angela Bulan and John Victor D. Ordoñez