By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
Amid moves to shut down Boracay for a year comes the news that the government has approved the construction of a big casino-resort on the world-famous island in 2019.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) granted Macau-based casino giant Galaxy Entertainment Group and its Filipino partner Leisure and Resorts World Corporation provisional approval to build a 23-hectare casino-resort worth $500 million on the island despite the temporary total closure proposed by several government agencies.
It turned out that in 2017, President Duterte met with the executives of Galaxy who expressed their plan to build an entertainment complex in Boracay along with the promise to comply with government environmental guidelines.
However, a lot of people were quick to assume that the decision to shut down Boracay was to give way to the casino project which Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque immediately denied.
Roque explained that the casino project would have zero discharge, which means it would reuse all waste water, treat it and reuse it either for flushing or gardening purposes. It would be required to have not just a sewage treatment plant but a water-recycling treatment facility.
Duterte expressed earlier his intention to shut Boracay down, saying it has become a “cesspool”. The opinion of the President was shared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DoT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) assigned to make a recommendation for the resolution on the alleged degradation of Boracay.
These government agencies suggested a total closure of the island for one year while undergoing rehabilitation although the Tourism department acknowledged that the closure would affect the tourist arrival target under the National Tourism Development Plan.
Several things should be considered here especially the effect that the construction of a casino-resort would have on the island of Boracay. Architect and urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox said the construction should not be allowed on the white-sand beaches since it would damage the quality of the sand.
More importantly, Boracay is known for the attraction its waters and sunsets have on tourists. The island is for beach lovers who want to have fun and frolic in the sand. It was never meant for gambling purposes. Why then is there a need to put up a gambling hub in Boracay when there are so many casinos in Manila if the people are truly looking for a betting center?
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