MANILA - Boracay tourism stakeholders on Thursday expressed dismay over the construction of a new casino-resort in the island amid the government's plan to rehabilitate the area to restore its pristine beaches.
Last month President Rodrigo Duterte mulled shutting down the island destination to clean-up its white sand beaches that have turned into "cesspools".
Despite the Environment and Tourism departments recommendation to temporarily close the island, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp granted a "provisional licence" to Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment and its Filipino partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp, to build a 23-hectare casino-resort worth $500 million on the island.
Boracay Foundation board member Connie Helgen said the island, knows for its picturesque waters and sunsets, should not be marketed as a gambling destination.
Helgen said the island's natural resources, water activities, and booming night life is enough to attract tourists to the island and sustain the livelihood of the locals.
"Boracay island is for beach lovers. Boracay is a wholesome destination. Why go to Boracay to play casino? There are so many casinos in Manila and in Macau," Helgen said.
"Having a casino here would just affect the social environment of Boracay. The influence of casino to the people there, there's no telling what will happen. We hope the President will reconsider," she said.
The government should also focus first on the island's clean-up before allowing more establishments to open shop, said Jose Clemente III, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines.
"We should be taking care first of the rehabilitation and establish what the real carrying capacity of Boracay is," he said.
Clemente said tour operators "have been calling on the moratorium of the building of new establishments in Boracay" to avoid overcrowding.
"To add more facilities of structures there (Boracay) without the proper study might not be to the best interest of the island," he said.