Bill seeking to impose clear tax rates for POGOs pushed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   February 11, 2020   •   262

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday said he has filed a bill seeking to impose a 30 percent income tax and five percent franchise tax on Philippine offshore online gaming operations (POGOs).

In a statement, Recto said he recently filed Senate Bill No. 1295 proposing the establishment of a tax regime for POGOs which are duly licensed and authorized by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Despite the fact that POGO is a growing industry in the Philippines, the lawmaker said the nature of its business activity creates confusion in the enforcement of the country’s existing laws.

Recto said that under PAGCOR rules and regulations on POGO operations, licenses are issued to Filipino-based or foreign-based operators. Service providers that form part of the components of the POGO operations such as gaming software provider, business outsourcing provider and content streaming provider are likewise required to secure a license.

“Both Philippine-based and foreign-based POGO operators are taxable on their income from gaming operations and other related services,” he said.

“Establishing the tax regime of POGOs and incorporating the same in the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1997, as amended, is necessary to remove any doubt and avoid the confusion as to whether or not POGOs are taxable in our jurisdiction,” he added.

Under the bill, licensed Philippine-based POGOs, local gaming agents and service providers shall be subjected to a 30-percent income tax, the taxable amount will be derived in the preceding taxable year from all sources within and outside of the Philippines.

Foreign-based POGOs shall also be subjected to a 30-percent income tax based on their gross income derived from game offerings or facilities located within the Philippines.

On top of the 30-percent income tax, Recto’s bill also proposed the imposition of a five-percent franchise tax on all gross receipts derived from gaming operations of both Philippine and foreign-based POGO operators.

The proposal is pending before the Senate ways and means committee.

Recto confident Duterte will support motorcycle taxi bill

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has expressed confidence that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign into law the proposed Motorcycle Taxi Bill, which seeks to lift the 56-year ban on two-wheelers as a public utility vehicle (PUV).

In his speech sponsoring Senate Bill No. 1341 Tuesday — which proposes to legalize motorcycle taxis such as Angkas, JoyRide and MoveIt — Recto referred to Duterte’s fondness for motorcycles, saying this had shown the motorbike as a safe ride.

“The motorbike is the ride of choice of the President,” he said.

“So, what is good for the president must be good for the ordinary citizen,” he added, before laying down the stringent conditions on how to make for-hire motorcycles “safe for the driver, for the passenger, and for the other vehicles on the road.”

The measure seeks to amend Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Tariff Code, which prohibits the use of motorcycles as public transport.

The proposal defines motorcycles-for-hire as any two-wheeled motor vehicle registered with the Land Transportation Office, which transports passengers and goods on a for-hire basis, and which may utilize online ride-hailing or pre-arranged transportation platforms.

The bill states that the motorcycle should weigh less than 1,000 kilograms, can travel faster than 50 kilometers per hour, has a minimum engine displacement of 125 cubic centimeters, and a backbone-type built.

Along with the vehicle registration, the motorcycles for hire will also be required to secure a certificate of public convenience or a special permit issued by the LTFRB.

The measure also states that motorcycle taxis fall under a classification of public utility automobiles along with public utility trucks, taxis and auto-calesas, garage automobiles, hire trucks and trucks owned by contractor and customs brokers and customs agents.

Recto urged his fellow legislators to pass the bill.

The Senate committees on public services and the local government earlier approved a committee report allowing the use of motorcycle taxis as a form of public transport in the country.

Taiwanese POGO employee seeks help after alleged abuse from Chinese employer

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 12, 2020

A Taiwanese national claims she was a victim of human trafficking after she was forced to work at a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) company.

Twenty-three- year-old Taiwanese national Lai Yu Cian or Ivy is seeking help after she was allegedly trafficked into the Philippines. She also reported suffering abuse from her Chinese employer.

“They want me to work for 24 hours, treating me like a slave. I already told them [employers] I want to go home. I want to go back to Taiwan. But they forced me to work for them,” she said.

Ivy said the company took her passport. She also added that her employer sexually assaulted her and threatened her if she sought help from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Ivy also revealed that her Chinese employer has a protector from the government and that she would sometimes hear the name ‘Michael Yang’.

“They always say that they have a protector behind them who is government people,” she said.

“I heard about once or twice when my supervisor got mad at me, they mentioned Michael Yang. He didn’t explain to me. He just shouts that at me,” Ivy added.

According to Senator Risa Hontiveros, they still haven’t verified if the “Michael Yang” identified by Ivy is the former economic adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Right now our main concern is the humanitarian aspect. We haven’t gone to the checking of identities,” she said.

Ivy is among the 30 other Asian nationals who were rescued in Mandaluyong last February 3.

Senator Joel Villanueva previously said that he is seeking the temporary suspension of POGO operations in the country due to the increasing number of illegal POGO workers.—AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Over 6,000 foreign nationals illegally working in POGO —DOLE

Maris Federez   •   February 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker seeks the suspension of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the country.

Senate Committee on Labor Employment and Human Resources Development Chair Joel Villanueva expressed his concern over the rising number of foreign nationals who are illegally working in the Philippines.

“Isuspinde muna ang lahat ng POGO operations hangga’t hindi natin naaayos ang ating mga patakaran,” Villanueva said.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said more than 200 POGO offices are now in operation in the country with more than 6,000 foreign nationals who are without alien employment permit (AEP).

This means that these foreign nationals are working illegally in the country, without paying the appropriate taxes.

DOLE said one of their requirements for the issuance of the permits to foreign nationals is the tax identification number (TIN) issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Villanueva said if these foreign nationals are not paying taxes, they are considered illegal, to which Bureau of Immigration deputy commissioner Tobias Javier concurred.

“If the company is not paying the taxes, not properly withholding the taxes from the salaries of the employees, then they are,” Javier said.

The BI added that the special working permits of almost half of these foreign nationals have already expired and that the agency had stopped issuing such permits since September 2019.

As of the latest POGO data, there are around 59 accredited POGO offices in the country with over 120,000 foreign nationals issued permits to work in the industry and over 200 accredited service providers.

Villanueva said the government must streamline the varying data of the concerned government agencies.

He also expressed concern over the billions of pesos of withholding and franchise taxes that POGO owners have left unsettled.

The Department of Finance, meanwhile, said that the government is losing more than Php2-Billion per month or php32-Billion per year due to unpaid taxes by these illegal foreign workers in the POGO industry.

“Yung kapulisan natin, inamin na nag-spike ang criminal activities. Itong mga bagay na ito ay sumasalamin sa hindi natin kahandaan dito sa POGO industry na ito. Klarong-klaro po na dapat pansamantalang itigil muna ito kung naniniwala po tayong kapakanan ng mas nakararami ang ating dapat protektahan,” Villanueva said. — (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

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