BORACAY ISLAND (2nd UPDATE) - No casino will be put up in Boracay, an interior department official said Tuesday, as the government continues to fend off criticism over the plan.
“Definitely hindi na,” Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing said in a press conference in Boracay when asked about whether a casino will still be put up on the island.
"Nabanggit yata ni [Tourism] Asec [Assistant Secretary] Ricky [Alegre], if I may quote you ‘no, he mentioned yesterday during the Cabinet Assistance Cluster meeting, na nagsabi na yata ni [PAGCOR] chairman Andrea Domingo."
Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment and its Filipino partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp (LRWC), earlier announced the building of a $500-million integrated resort in Boracay.
The developers made the announcement last month after they signed a provisional license with the country's gaming regulator.
President Duterte, however, said no casino should be built on Boracay.
Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre, meanwhile, clarified on Tuesday night news reports where he was quoted as saying that Galaxy Entertainment was already looking for an alternative location for the casino.
He explained, he was merely asked if such a report was true. He said, if this is the case, it would be a welcome development.
However, Alegre said the tourism department has not received any official communication from Galaxy Entertainment and LRWC about their plans.
For her part, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) chief Andrea Domingo told ANC, "I have not received any information regarding this matter."
LRWC’s vice president for legal Katrina Nepomuceno said no final decision has been made yet on the casino project.
“LRWC continues to be in talks with its partner Galaxy Entertainment Group. Both parties have not reached any final decision regarding its planned Boracay resort project,” Nepomuceno said in a statement.
“Following protocol, no change in plans or project location would be made without prior consultation and agreement with Pagcor. Contrary to claims that Galaxy has ‘abandoned’ its planned Boracay project, no such announcement has been made nor communicated with Pagcor.”
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said putting up a casino in Boracay is not among the President's plans for the island.
“Boracay po is not for sale… The point of the President is he wants to return Boracay to the ordinary people, not to the rich resort owners. He wants the future generations to benefit from the beauty of Boracay, not just the rich,” Roque said in the press briefing.