Recent tax collections from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) are significantly lower compared to those accumulated before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) official.
The BIR reasoned that Chinese workers have started leaving the country as POGO establishments fold up due to COVID-19.
While actual figures are yet to be finalized, Revenue Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa added that many Chinese workers flee the country also because of canceled visas.
As of September 8, the number of registered POGOs listed on the website of state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) went down to 55 from the initial count of 60 at the start of 2020.
Out of the said number, only 29 were given the authorization to resume operations in the country due to taxation issues.
PAGCOR’s latest data also shows that 99 accredited local gaming agents and service providers had been allowed to resume operations.
Prior to the pandemic, there were around 218 service providers with 130,000 to 150,000 POGO employees who are mostly Chinese.
The operations of POGOs in the country have since been controversial as the industry has been linked to illegal activities like human trafficking, drugs, and tax evasion.
President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has repeatedly defended POGOs, even claiming that their operations are ‘clean,’ despite calls from senators and other government officials to ban the said establishments in the Philippines.