An interagency body created to better regulate the activities of expatriate workers in the Philippines has concluded that the country currently hosts 138,000 foreign employees, most of whom are Chinese nationals in the booming online gaming industry.
According to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, he asked representatives of the Department of Labor and Employment, the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Bureau of Immigration during a meeting last Friday to validate the number and verify claims of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (POGO) firms that these workers make an average of only P35,000 a month.
The finance chief—who has been crossing swords with gaming regulators on a variety of issues in recent weeks—said the nationalities of the foreign workers were irrelevant to him.
“What is relevant is that they are foreign workers and what is relevant is they have to collect taxes on all foreign workers working here because it’s very unfair to Filipinos,” he said.
The Department of Finance earlier said it was aiming to collect an estimated P22 billion annually in income taxes from Chinese workers employed in the online gaming industry.
To this end, an interagency task force formed to monitor the number of foreign nationals employed in the POGO industry is now fast-tracking measures to finalize a complete list of these workers with the goal of taxing their wages.
“Right now, I told them to reconcile all the names, addresses, tax identification numbers,” he said, adding that agencies such as the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority have also been ordered to come up with a firmer handle on the number of foreign workers they host and whether they were paying the correct taxes.
Dominguez said there were existing laws that require foreign nationals working in the Philippines to pay income taxes, but added that he was unsure why these were not being followed.
“All I know is we’re not collecting the tax,” he said. “This is law enforcement and we are going to enforce the law.”
The BIR earlier said that it had an initial list of only 64 out of 205 POGO firms showing a total employee headcount of 33,000 foreign workers or an average of 515 per service provider.
BIR officials also cited Chinese newspaper reports that foreign workers in POGOs here receive an average of 10,000 yuan, equivalent to about $1,500 or P78,000 a month.