Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to allow casino operations in Boracay, a top tourist location where no gambling venues currently operate, has received approval from the Department of Tourism (DOT), confirmed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat last Friday.
The DOT’s decision to follow Duterte’s measure comes after several residents and business owners in the island expressed objection to casino activity in Boracay, reports Inquirer. When asked about the department’s position by members of the House of Representatives, Puyat initially responded that the DOT has no authority over casinos.
After being further pressed for a personal standing in regards to the presidential order, Puyat said: “That’s the decision of the President, so we'll follow the President,” confirming the DOT will adhere to the measures.
Duterte’s decision to opening up Boracay to gambling operators responds to revenue-generating efforts to augment funds for Covid-19 response. On August 26, the President stated: “We have no money now and I would get money whenever I could. If it’s from gambling, so be it.”
The President’s current position marks a change from his earlier stance on the subject: in 2018, Duterte imposed a moratorium on casino development. Puyat’s position in regards to gambling operations in Boracay was similar, and the DOT, along with the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, supported the casino ban in the island, citing the need to maintain the family-oriented nature of the top tourist location. Her current stance follows Duterte’s similar shift in position.
The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), which manages the rehabilitation activities on the island, has also said it will “carry out the necessary steps” towards the lifting of the casino prohibition following the President’s order, according to the previously cited news source.
The casino operations and the promotion of this business will correspond to the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), while the Department of Tourism will work on promoting all of the islands of the country to international markets as “sun and beach” destinations.
Upon Duterte’s announcement to allow casinos in Boracay, PAGCOR has given the go-signal to two proposed projects. One is by Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group in partnership with local gaming business Leisure and Resorts World Corp to develop a $550 million casino resort.
A second one involves Philippines-based casino license holder Alliance Global Group Inc.’s Megaworld, led by tycoon Andrew Tan, which will proceed with a casino project in the island. Megaworld already operates hotels and a golf course in Boracay.