THERE will be no casinos on Boracay. Period.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) sought to reassure the public that President Duterte has not changed his mind on keeping casinos out of Boracay Island, as the countdown to the popular destination’s announced reopening on October 26 has begun.
The agency also stressed that only hotels and resorts that have DOT accreditation will be allowed to reopen.
“The President recently reiterated to the DOT his earlier position against the entry of casino operations in Boracay,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat in an interview with the BusinessMirror over the weekend. “This is in line with the desire of the DOT and tourism stakeholders in Boracay to further develop the island as a sustainable and family-oriented destination,” she added.
The DOT chief said she asked Duterte to clarify this issue just last Friday, July 27: “I confirmed it with the President, and his stand is, ‘there would be no casinos in Boracay.’ The President’s stand has not changed.”
Also last Friday, officials from the Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC), the local partner of Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd., said it was still on track to complete its integrated casino resort on Boracay despite the latter’s six-month closure. The casino resort is targeted for completion by 2021. Earlier this year, LRWC was able to secure a provisional license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to set up its Boracay casino.
Prior to the closure of Boracay, other casinos that had been operating in Boracay were at the Movenpick Resort and Spa and at the Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center. Megaworld Corp.’s Savoy Hotel also has a Pagcor license to set up a casino, as well as Archibald Po of Hotel Soffia, although sources said the latter was still looking for a suitable property to set up the casino.
Meanwhile, the DOT reiterated that no resort or hotel will be allowed to reopen in Boracay on October 26 if it is not accredited by the government agency.
This developed as the interagency Task Force Boracay on Friday decided to set up a one-stop shop for the island’s stakeholders to process their business licenses, environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and accreditation from the DOT, starting this week.
IN an interview, DOT Assistant Secretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation Ma. Rica C. Bueno said this was the resolution the task force came up with after questions were raised on the sudden cancellation by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the ECCs of all resorts and establishments on the island.
“During the meeting, the DENR explained that when they were reviewing the ECCs, they found that there were establishments operating which had no ECCs, establishments operating which had ECCs but still had violations and new ECC applications. So they cancelled all ECCs to put everyone on the same level,” she said.
She said the DENR gave assurances the processing of the ECCs is fast, and that on the average, the agency processes about 90 applications/reviews a day on Boracay. Sen. Nancy S. Binay, chairman of the Committee on Tourism, on Thursday said the government should waive the fees for Boracay stakeholders who are reapplying for ECCs.
The DENR failed to inform the DOT and the Department of the Interior and Local Government of its plan to cancel ECCs, which also caught industry stakeholders by surprise. It raised issues on the DENR suddenly making all Boracay establishments “violators.” (See “DOT, DILG blindsided by DENR’s cancellation of ECCs in Boracay,” in the BusinessMirror, July 25.)
“To facilitate the processing of local permits from the local government units, environmental clearances from the DENR, and accreditation from the DOT, a one-stop shop will be set up. The venue [for the processing center] will be announced soon,” she added.
The DOT accreditation will be the last step that Boracay stakeholders will take before they are allowed to reopen on October 26. “As for the DOT accreditation, the establishments have to be [first be] compliant with all permits and environmental clearances,” Bueno stressed. She also noted that in a previous meeting by DOT officials with stakeholders, the latter agreed that they were not fully compliant if they didn’t seek DOT accreditation.
Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay for six months starting April 26, after he was shown photos of the dirt and muck flowing out of a government drainage pipe, which led him to dub the island a “cesspool.” The closure was to allow government agencies, led by the DENR, to clean up the island and fast-track the construction of necessary infrastructure.
DOT chief quotes DU30:
No casinos on Boracay