WORKING permits of foreigners working in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) will automatically be cancelled once the online gaming firms exit from the country, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said yesterday.
Bello said foreign workers of POGO operators that have and will leave the country will no longer have any legal rights to work in the Philippines.
“Their AEPs are automatically cancelled. They don’t have the right to work here anymore since their operators (employers) have already left the country,” said Bello.
He said the only way such foreign workers can extend their stay in the country is if they find a new employer.
But even then, the labor chief stressed that they must undergo a similar procedure in acquiring AEPs.
“They will have to apply again because we need to verify if their next employer or operator is paying the right taxes,” Bello said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said authorities should not to let POGOs leave the country without having them accountable for their unpaid taxes.
Hontiveros specifically called on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), which regulates POGOs, to exercise its mandated power to run after the gaming firms before they exit the country.
“Instead of advocating on behalf of Chinese-run POGO firms, Pagcor should perform its regulatory mandate and see to it that operators of POGO firms, who have closed shop, will not evade their existing liabilities and obligations under our laws,” Hontiveros said.
“The sudden closure of these POGOs should not allow them to escape accountability and justice,” she added.
Bello said the DOLE has yet to receive any information regarding the closure of POGOs.
The government allowed the partial resumption of the POGO industry in May while the country is still under the enhanced community quarantine provided they settle unpaid taxes with the Bureau of Internal Revenue which now reaches around P70 billion from only around P50 billion as of December last year.
The Pagcor has said that at least two POGOs have already left the country and more are expected to leave soon. Their departure comes amid the continued failure of many industry players to settle their tax obligations with the Philippine government.
The Department of Finance said revenues from POGOs should reach as much as P20 billion per year but collections only reached P6 billion in 2019.
Hontiveros said the exit of POGOs is a welcome development since the country does not need them to exist.
“POGO firms whose management and workers are involved in kidnapping, human trafficking, prostitution of women and children, unfair labor practice and other criminal activities should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said. – With Raymond Africa