President Duterte did not give his blessing to the building of a $500 million casino resort on Boracay, a Malacañang spokesman has said.
The president himself denied supporting the bid by a Macau-based gaming firm, despite having previously met its owner to talk about the plans.
The controversy over proposals for the casino come as the popular tourist island is due to be closed for six months for environmental rehabilitation. Some opposition lawmakers have suggested that the closure may actually be a way to speed the building of the gambling resort.
In a statement today (Wednesday, April 11) presidential spokesman Harry Roque reiterated that no casino would be built.
He said: “I did clarify this with the president and the president said ‘as far as Boracay as concerned I have not issued any proclamation that will authorise any casino in Boracay itself’ but I can’t address the issue of the licence because that just means maybe they can open shop elsewhere.”
“But I do not know. But as far as Boracay is concerned, that’s the presidential proclamation on the matter.”
Roque was speaking at a press briefing in Hong Kong, where the president is on a working visit following a summit in China.
A provisional gaming license granted to Boracay Philippines Resort and Leisure Corp. (BPLRC) by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR).
BPLRC is a subsidiary of Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. and its local partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp.
The president had previously imposed a moratorium on any new casinos from January 13 this year. However, PAGCOR Chairman Andrea Domingo said that the Boracay casino project was not covered by the moratorium as it applied before it was imposed.
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said today that parts of the island will be classified as “Critical Habitat” zones by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
In a press conference today, he said his office was now finalising an Administrative Order declaring 751 hectares of forest and coastal lands in Boracay as havens for endemic and threatened species.
He added that the measure aimed to promote the breeding of marine turtles, fruit bats, flying foxes, puka shells, marine corals, all of which have been in decline.
“Human disturbance, aggressive infrastructure development and unregulated tourism have resulted to habitat destruction of the island’s diverse wildlife. We will not allow further degradation of these ecosystems and species,” he said.