No Casinos, New or Existing, Will Operate on Boracay after Rehabilitation, Tourism Official Says

There will be no casinos on Boracay after the Philippine island’s planned reopening on October 26, a government official told local news outlets earlier today.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that neither already established gambling venues nor new ones will be allowed to operate on the island, known to be a popular hub for tourists from the Asia-Pacific region due to its whitesand beaches and breathtaking views.

The island was shuttered for a six-month rehabilitation at the end of April and is scheduled to resume operations in late October. Boracay has been subject to extensive media coverage over the past several months due to an ongoing campaign led by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte aimed to prevent the proposed construction of a $500-million casino resort on the island after its reopening.

Macau gaming and hospitality giant Galaxy Entertainment Group has partnered its Philippine counterpart Leisure and Resorts World Corp. to build the resort in question. The two companies bought a 23-hectare portion of land on the island and received a provisional gaming license from PAGCOR, the Philippine gambling regulator, in order to be able to proceed with the scheme.

President Duterte has repeatedly said that he would not authorize the construction of the multi-million resort, while the developers have remained determined to materialize the project.

Ms. Romulo-Puyat told local media that the country’s top official has also instructed the Department of Tourism (DOT) that Boracay’s existing casinos be shuttered after the island’s reopening this fall.

Casinos Not Within DOT’s Jurisdiction

Commenting on the latest announcements in relation to Boracay’s gaming sector, Rep. Gus Tambunting, Chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusement, told media that the DOT might not be able to close the island’s casinos as it is not within its jurisdiction to do so. Mr. Tambunting went on that it is actually PAGCOR that has primary jurisdiction over gaming operations and that government agencies are supposed to act within their own jurisdiction.

Boracay’s closure for six-month rehabilitation came as part of the Philippine government’s efforts to direct the country’s tourism industry toward better sustainability and to further boost the sector. Boracay annually welcomes around 2 million international visitors. Official data showed that despite the island’s closure, the number of overseas visits grew 10.4% during the first half of the year. The DOT has set a goal of 7.4 million international visits this year.

A separate casino resort project has, too, drawn the ire of President Duterte recently. The $1.5-billion scheme for the construction of the NayonLanding integrated resort in the Manila Bay area celebrated its groundbreaking last week, but received fiery comments by the Philippines’ top official accompanied by oaths that the project would not be allowed to push through. In a series of comments, President Duterte and members of his administration said last week that he does not want any form of gambling expansion in the country and that much effort would be put into the prevention of such expansion.

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