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DENR chief admits contradiction in casino construction and rehab efforts in Boracay

BORACAY, Aklan — A Macau-based casino operator may have secured a provisional license to operate a $500-million casino in Boracay, but it will still have to meet Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) requirements before it can build structures on the island.

In an ambush interview after meeting with Boracay stakeholders, Cimatu acknowledged that moves to free up space in Boracay seem to be contradicted by the plan of Galaxy Entertainment Group to construct a casino in a 23-hectare property on the island.

When asked if there is a contradiction, Cimatu said: ‘’There is. Talagang ganun nga.’’

Cimatu said he has tasked the DENR ecosystems research and development bureau to determine Boracay’s carrying capacity, or the maximum number of people that could fit in the island.

“The first research was 10 years ago and at the time they said that it’s already about to reach the end of its carrying capacity. That was 10 years ago,’’ said Cimatu.

Cimatu said the new study will be “the biggest factor’’ in the environmental assessment the DENR will make when it decides whether to grant the casino an environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

“It will be science-based and it will be on this carrying capacity,’’ said the environment secretary.

An ECC is required before construction of a new structure can begin on the island.

As of now, Galaxy has yet to submit application documents to the DENR, Cimatu said.

PAGCOR, Galaxy, and its Filipino partner Leisure and Resorts World Corporation signed last week the provisional license for the planned integrated resort casino, which can have up to 250 rooms.

Rehabilitation efforts in Boracay began in February after President Rodrigo Duterte called the world-famous island destination a “cesspool.”

The President’s statement triggered a crackdown on establishments in the island over violations of environmental laws.

Some structures were found to be illegally built on wetlands. Hundreds were found to have violated easement rules or were discovered to have failed to connect to a proper sewerage system.

Given the need for massive reconstruction in the island, the DENR, along with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of Tourism recommended Boracay’s closure for six months starting on April 26.

President Duterte has stated that he is inclined to follow the recommendation but has yet to issue a final, official order. — RSJ, GMA News