A Philippine presidential aide on Monday denied reports that the construction of a casino resort on that nation’s holiday island of Boracay (pictured) will move forward.
“I don’t think any private entity should test the political will of the President on the issue of casinos on Boracay,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a media briefing, as reported by the CNN Philippines. “The President has said ‘no’ and I would hope they will respect that,” he reportedly added.
Mr Roque’s comments came on the heels of similar remarks made over the weekend by the head of the Department of Tourism of the Philippines, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who reiterated that no new casino would be built on Boracay. The comments from the two government officials are in stark contrast to comments made by the scheme’s promoter, which on Friday said the casino resort on the island was “on track to open in 2021,” according to local media reports.
It was announced on March 21 that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) had granted a provisional gaming licence for Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd on Boracay. Galaxy Entertainment and its Filipino partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp, had said they wanted to build a US$500-million gaming resort on a 23-hectare (57-acre) site at Barangay Manoc-Manoc on Boracay.
“The President [Rodrigo Duterte] recently reiterated to the Department of Tourism his earlier position against the entry of casino operations in Boracay,” Ms Romulo-Puyat said in an interview published on Sunday by the Business Mirror newspaper.
“This is in line with the desire of the Department of Tourism and tourism stakeholders in Boracay to further develop the island as a sustainable and family-oriented destination,” she reportedly added.
The reiteration of the President’s position on the topic came as Katrina Nepomuceno, vice president for legal affairs at Leisure and Resorts World, said on Friday that the planned project for Boracay had not been delayed by the closure of the island. The national government ordered a six-month shutdown of tourism to Boracay on April 26.
Ms Nepomuceno said the company was able to conduct the needed tests and surveys before the closure of the island, reported the Manila Standard newspaper.
“Basically, right now … we’ve been working on the initial plans for the resort development. So continuously we’ve been discussing with Galaxy Entertainment Group, with the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] and other government agencies,” Ms Nepomuceno was quoted as saying.
The executive said additionally that she was confident in the project’s success despite the government’s reservations regarding the choice of Boracay island for the scheme. “The fact remains there is a property and our partner has a licence,” she reportedly added.
In a statement on April 11, Pagcor had said the provisional licence granted to Galaxy Entertainment was “only the start of a very long and tedious process of compliance … before they can be issued by Pagcor a ‘Notice to Commence Casino Operations’ and eventually, a regular casino gaming licence”.
In Monday’s press briefing, Mr Roque noted that the provisional gaming licence granted to Galaxy Entertainment was “not a licence itself”. “It is subject to the happening of conditions, which will never be fulfilled because the President said he will not allow it,” said the official, as quoted by CNN Philippines.
In Sunday’s interview with Business Mirror, the Department of Tourism’s Ms Romulo-Puyat had said that no resort or hotel would be allowed to reopen in Boracay on October 26 – once the island reopens to tourism – if it is not accredited by the government agency.
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Gross gaming revenue produced by the Philippine casino sector in the second quarter