Palace unsure about casino developer's fate amid Boracay's closure

Ruth Abbey Gita

MALACA√ĎANG on Wednesday, April 11, admitted that it was uncertain about what will happen to the provisional gaming license granted to the companies planning to construct a $500-million resort-casino on Boracay Island.

"We welcome all investors but I think the President has already addressed the issue of a new casino in Boracay. There will be no new casino in Boracay. That's the President's declaration. I don't have to annotate," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said in a press conference in Hong Kong.

"So perhaps the license will, if there's any at all, I do not know how this will be resolved," he added.

This came after President Rodrigo Duterte made a strong stance on Monday, April 9, that he would not allow any casinos to be put up in Boracay, amid the six-month closure of the popular island beginning April 26.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier approved the provisional license for a proposed casino-resort that will be jointly operated on a 23-hectare property in Boracay by Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment and its Filipino partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp.

There were speculations that the President ordered the closure of the island to give way for the building of a new resort-casino.

Duterte, however, announced Monday that he would not allow the construction of casinos in Boracay, as he intends to transform the tourist destination into a "land reform area" that would benefit the farmers.

Asked if the provisional license issued by the state gaming regulator is already deemed revoked, Roque said: "I can't say because you see, the license must have been issued by Pagcor."

The presidential spokesman, however, raised the possibility that the casino developers may proceed with the construction of a new casino-resort in other parts of the country, except Boracay.

"They could have a provisional license, if they can't build in Boracay. Perhaps, they could build elsewhere. So that's why I'm not saying unequivocally about the status of the Galaxy contract," Roque said.

"But as far as Boracay is concerned, he (Duterte) wants the people to benefit from Boracay. He wants the closure of Boracay to foreign tourists. It was intended to preserve the island for the next coming generations, to be recognized and be remembered as the paradise island," he added. (SunStar Philippines)