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$500-M casino resort in Boracay to push through, says PAGCOR

The plan of a Macau-based casino operator and its local partner to build a $500-million integrated casino-resort in Boracay will proceed despite an impending total closure of the island for up to one year, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) said on Friday.

“Yes, we are signing the contract for their provisional license before the end of the month,” PAGCOR chairperson Andrea Domingo told GMA News

Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. plans to invest as much as $500 million to build an integrated casino-resort in the Philippines, the company and PAGCOR said last December.

At that time, Galaxy and local partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp. were seeking regulatory approval for the casino project in Boracay, PAGCOR president Alfredo Lim told Reuters

Domingo was asked on Friday if Galaxy Entertainment and Leisure and Resorts World are still pursuing the plan despite the recommendation to close Boracay for up to one year to give way to its rehabilitation.

Domingo said the companies were not concerned about the impending closure of Boracay.

“No, they have to build. Opening is at least after three years,” Domingo said.

Executives of Galaxy Entertainment and LRWC paid President Rodrigo Duterte a courtesy visit to discuss the plan, according to the Reuters report.

Last January 11, Duterte ordered a moratorium on the entry and creation of new casinos to prevent an oversupply.

Because of this, PAGCOR will no longer process applications for gaming licenses.

As to whether the Macau-based casino firm and its local partner's application was covered by the ban, Domingo clarified, "They met all the requirements before the President announced the moratorium."

Closed up to a year

The Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Interior and Local Government, and Tourism have recommended the total closure of island resort Boracay so it can be rehabilitated.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Interior officer-in-charge Eduardo Año, and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo announced their recommendation to the President on Thursday.

“For public health, public interest, and general welfare, I recommend to the President the closure of Boracay island as tourist destination for a maximum of one year effective one month after the declaration,” Cimatu said in a statement.

The departments recommended the to do the following improvements while the island is closed:

  • Upgrading the sewerage system, including sewer lines, to meet the requirement of the entire island as a major tourist destination
  • Installation of all the required solid waste management facilities and mechanisms in addition to full compliance with provisions of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act
  • Removal of illegal structures in forestlands and wetlands, easement areas and even geologically hazardous areas such as those with sink holes
  • Road widening and construction, pipe laying and excavations
  • Rationalization of a transportation system

Cimatu said closing the island resort to tourism will give ample time to undisrupted implementation of measures restoring and eventually sustaining Boracay as a prime tourism destination.

Duterte in February threatened to shut down the popular tourist destination, describing it as a "cesspool," if the island's environmental issues will not be addressed in six months.

"I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool," Duterte said during the Manila Times' Business Forum in Davao City.

The President said he has tasked Cimatu "to clean" Boracay in six moths.

"Now, during days when I was there, ‘yung basura was just 20 meters away from the beach," Duterte said.

"But you go into the water, it’s smelly. Smell of what? S***. Kasi lahat doon, ang palabas nila, sa Boracay... it’s destroying the environment or the Republic of the Philippines and creating a disaster coming," he added. —VDS/NB, GMA News