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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The question still remains as to why Malacañang gave its nod to the Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group to put up a casino worth $500 million on Boracay when along with the moves to rehabilitate the island was to impose a suspension on new construction projects in the area.

The proposed temporary closure of the island was made after President Duterte expressed that Boracay has become a “cesspool”. Still, some people think it was meant to give way to the casino project although Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque already denied this.

Also, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu admitted that Galaxy’s plan seemed to contradict government moves to free up space in Boracay.

Galaxy’s local partner, Leisure Resorts World Corporation (LRWC), earlier announced the acquisition of a 23-hectare property for the project in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, one of the three barangays on the 1,032-hectare island. However, Barangay Manoc-Manoc officials said they were totally unaware that a casino worth $500 million would be erected in their village.

Meanwhile, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel disclosed that the project should not push through without the approval of the people of Malay, Aklan that has jurisdiction over the area since they would be the first ones to be affected by the good or bad results derived from the casino. Even if the shift to federalism has not happened yet, Pimentel clarified that there is no legal impediment to adopt the principle of consultation.

Kalibo Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc said casinos destroy the moral fiber of families and may result in other vices. He and other worried residents are ready to conduct peaceful prayer rallies to oppose the project.

Karen Davila tweeted that “Boracay’s capacity is only 40,000 a day but tourists are at 54,000. DENR even thought about limiting tourists to save the island. How then can a new casino help in this move?”

Experts found that the capacity of existing facilities in Boracay to process waste left by people is already inadequate. If a casino is constructed, would this not generate more waste way beyond its capacity?

More importantly, we have seen so many people who got hooked on gambling lose all their money, got separated from their wives and families with their children at the losing end. Casinos could also serve as nests for drug lords and breed more problems if tourists and locals had easier access to narcotics. Why destroy the beauty of nature along with the lives of the people?

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