Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte has called for a review of Republic Act 11590 or the law taxing Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) to allow the government to better collect taxes from these companies.
“With the new government in need of much bigger revenue streams to adequately fund its priority social welfare programs, among others, the Congress may have to engage the PAGCOR in an early revisit of the POGO law to find out if rationalizing the tax rates or offering additional incentives are necessary to prevent the remaining POGOs from leaving and enticing those that have left since RA 11590 took effect to return to our country,” Villafuerte said
Villafuerte noted that because half of PAGCOR’s gaming revenues are remitted to the national government (NG), a bigger revenue take—from sources like POGOs—will allow the government to spend more on its nation-building programs, particularly those on uplifting the
lives of marginalized sectors.
Among the project beneficiaries of PAGCOR’s annual remittances to the national government are the Universal Health Care Program (UHC) and the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP).
“We may have to take stock of RA 11590 and possibly introduce amendments that could put a stopper to the exodus of POGOs and, hopefully, lure back those that have left and attract other online gaming firms currently based elsewhere,” he said, “as a potentially dramatic increase in revenues from PAGCOR’s once booming sector would go a long way in helping the Marcos administration set aside a lot more funds for its priority programs like social safety nets for the poor and marginalized.”
Villafuerte, the president of the National Unity Party (NUP), said that with “a larger revenue take, particularly from the lucrative online gaming, the government could, for example, provide adequate funds for its planned social safety nets, such as the higher monthly pension for senior citizens, the cash aid for solo parents and the Libreng Sakay free bus rides along EDSA.”
Legislators learned during a 2023 budget hearing of the House appropriations committee on PAGCOR revenues that the high tax regime for POGOs under RA 11590 has led to the regulator’s lower revenue take from this sector, as half of the registered licensees have already shut down or left the country and transferred to new host-countries with less prohibitive taxes like Cambodia, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Before PAGCOR started registering POGOs, many online gaming firms that were operating under licenses issued only by SEZ authorities were just remitting measly revenues or none at all to the government.
PAGCOR reported that from P73.72 million in 2016, government income from its regulatory fees alone collected from POGOs went up to P3.12 billion in 2017, P6.11 billion in 2018, and P5.73 billion in 2019. In the first quarter of 2020, POGOs already paid P1.80 billion in regulatory fees alone.
Collections from POGO applications, processing and regulatory fees totalled P20.83 from 2016 to March 2020, said PAGCOR.
This amount excluded taxes and fees collected by other agencies like the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) from these firms’ corporate taxes and their employees’ income taxes, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) from its visa fees, and the host-local government units (LGUs) from their local taxes.