Philippine Government Will Not Allow Casino on Boracay, Official Says

An official from the Philippine Department of the Interior and Local Government said Wednesday that the government would not authorize the construction of a casino resort on the island of Boracay. The famous tourist destination is currently undergoing environmental rehabilitation, following its April 26 closure.

The Government Department’s Officer-In-Charge Eduardo Año spoke at the second Pre-State of the Nation 2018 Forum, which took place Wednesday at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. The official reiterated that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had already said no casinos would be allowed on the island and that Boracay was a popular destination visited by international tourists for its white-sand beaches and it did not need gambling to attract visits.

Mr. Año further revealed that there were a number of Cabinet members who were strongly opposed to the construction of a casino resort on the island, naming Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu who heads the Boracay Rehabilitation Inter-Agency Task Force as one such official. The task force was assembled earlier this year to assess the state of Boracay and determine whether the island needed to be shut down for environmental cleanup.

Boracay was eventually shuttered for business for what is planned to be a six-month rehabilitation after a review by the task force found that many businesses on the island were discharging untreated waste water directly into the sea.

President Duterte and His New War Against Gambling

News emerged late last year that Macau-based operator of integrated resorts Galaxy Entertainment Group had partnered Philippine company Leisure Resorts & World to build a $500-million casino resort on Boracay.

The two companies moved forward with their plan this spring as they sought authorization to carry out the ambitious scheme. It was also reported that Galaxy and its local partner had bought a portion of land on the island to develop it into a luxury property with a casino, hotel, and multiple food and beverage and entertainment facilities.

However, the plan was met with diverse reactions from the Philippine Government and was strongly opposed by President Duterte, who is known for his generally negative stance toward everything gambling related. The President vowed to prevent the construction of a casino resort this spring and reiterated his commitment earlier this month during an event that was part of the celebrations of the 31st anniversary of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The President has also previously said that he plans to give Boracay to its residents as part of a land reform currently in the works in the Philippine Government. If implemented, the land reform would see nearly 900 hectares of mostly agricultural land being distributed to natives. President Duterte has pointed out that he would make sure that undeveloped portions of the island would be used for forestry and agricultural purposes only.

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