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Non-Gambling Investment Will Be Welcome on Boracay, President Duterte Spokesperson Says

New tourism projects would be welcome on Boracay when it opens after its six-month environmental cleanup, except casino resorts, a spokesperson for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said in series of comments on the matter over the past few days.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque further told media during recent briefings that no private entities should challenge the President’s ban on developing casino gambling businesses on the popular tourist hub.

Boracay is undergoing an environmental rehabilitation after a review by environmental authorities found that multiple businesses discharged untreated water into the sea, thus polluting the surrounding environment and threatening the health of locals and visitors. It also became known that there were a number of illegal structures on the island, which President Duterte threatened to blow up.

Boracay was closed in late April and is expected to reopen for business on October 26. It has become clear from previous comments made by President Duterte and members of various government departments that the island might still look to attract international tourism. However, casino gambling would not be allowed, as repeatedly pointed out by the country’s top official.

The casino gambling comments have been made in relation to a recently announced project for the development of an integrated resort with a gaming floor. The project was introduced by Macau casino and hospitality operator Galaxy Entertainment Group and its local partner Leisure & Resorts World Corporation (LRWC). The two companies announced late last year that they planned to build a $550-million resort on the island.

They received a provisional license from PAGCOR, the Philippine gambling regulator, earlier this year and acquired a 23-hectare site where the property will be built. Commenting on Boracay’s closure and how this would affect their project, a LRWC official said over the weekend that the resort remained on track for 2021 opening, despite the island’s ongoing environment cleanup and the fact that no groundbreaking date has been decided on.

Casino Gambling a Vice

As mentioned above, President Duterte has been staunchly opposed to Galaxy and LRWC’s project and has reiterated his determination to stop that one as well as any other casino resort construction plan on the island from materialization.

The President’s spokesperson said in series of comments from the past few days that the official does not like casinos as they promote gambling, which is a vice and “contrary to good morals.”

The latest comments could mean that Boracay would still be open to business and international tourism after its cleanup is completed, despite previous statements made by President Duterte that the island could be subjected to an agricultural reform that would aim to return land to its residents.

The President has said that the government would have to decide how to determine who owns what portion of Boracay’s land and to make sure that the distribution of land would be fair.

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