Press Release
June 2, 2021

SBN 2232
Taxing POGOs Explanation of Vote
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, distinguished colleagues.

For the past few years, our country has become a host for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) that essentially provide online gambling services to foreigners located outside the country. The sharp rise of the POGO industry, unfortunately, came with serious social costs.

Property rental prices surged by as much as sixty-two percent (62%) in 2018. Filipinos have been kicked out of their condo units and homes that they were renting because POGO workers can afford to pay more. Nawalan ng tirahan sa sariling bayan.

Foreign POGO workers were also heavily involved in various criminal activities such as the bribery of immigration officials, prostitution, money laundering, human trafficking, tax evasion, online fraud, and even kidnapping and murder. From September 2019 to January 2020, at least six (6) prostitution dens, which front as bars, and casas, and restaurants, were raided in Makati alone. The NBI even admitted that these kinds of operations "came with the proliferation of POGOs" and they "only experienced these kinds of activities when POGOs were created."

In our Senate Health Committee hearing in the COVID virus held last year February 4, 2020, Secretary Duque, when asked by this representation as to how many of the first ninety (90) persons under investigation for COVID with symptoms, how many of these ninety came from Wuhan, China?

Secretary Duque answered thirty-one (31). When we asked him was contact tracing done, he said hindi na daw dahil na-discharge na sa mga ospital.

It would not come as a surprise if those 31 PUIs from Wuhan were POGO workers.

POGOs also pose a national security threat. Security officials such as Defense Secretary Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Esperon have previously expressed their concerns over the presence of POGOs and Chinese nationals close to key military installations as they might be conducting intelligence-gathering operations.

The Chinese Government itself has repeatedly asked the Philippine Government to close POGO operations because these were used in crossborder crimes such as money laundering.

We recognize the additional revenues that the national government may collect from POGOs through the tax regime proposed under this measure. In 2021, an estimated Php28.7 billion may be collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Yet the interpellations have shown that perhaps that is on the low side.

Indeed, whatever amount the BIR collects from POGOs may be used to fund projects to give relief to our people's suffering during this pandemic. However, we cannot and should not turn a blind eye away from the social costs that the POGO industry brings and has brought upon us. Social costs that may be difficult to reverse. Instead of allowing POGOs to thrive, perhaps we ought to have re-allocated funds from other sources to support our pandemic relief efforts.

For these reasons, Mr. President, I vote NO to Senate Bill No. 2232.

Maraming salamat.

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