MANILA – An ordinance seeking to impose stricter regulations on games of chance for Quezon City residents is not an abuse of authority, QC Vice-Mayor Joy Belmonte said Friday.
Belmonte was reacting to a statement made by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) on its ordinance that would impose stricter measures for QC residents following the impending construction of a Solaire casino at the Ayala Vertis North Complex in Quezon City.
“Ang nais po naming gawin, dagdagan po ang regulations ng PAGCOR. Dadagdagan lang natin para mas mahigpit ang regulation, para mas maprotektahan ang mamamayan ng lungsod Quezon, given na ang location ng itatayong casino operations ay within striking distance of all persons," she said in an interview on DZMM Friday.
The ordinance, passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod in Oct. 1 and signed by Mayor Herbert Bautista on December 3, 2018, seeks to impose an entrance fee of P1,500 to QC residents to limit their access to the casino.
PAGCOR said that if the local government was opposed to gambling, it should not have issued a Letter of No Objection to Bloomberry Resorts Corp, the company that operates Solaire.
Belmonte, however, said the local government was the last one to know about the casino project.
"Nabentahan na ng [National Housing Authority] ng lupa ang Solaire. That means nag-invest na po ang proponent, tapos nabigyan na ng prangkisa ng PAGCOR ang Solaire na mag-operate sa Quezon City, saka pa lang kami nilapitan sa local government unit," she said.
"Hindi namin gustong pakialaman operations ng casino. Gusto lang namin protektahan ang mamamayan ng lungsod Quezon kung kaya't 'yung mga additional regulations are for the citizens of Quezon City," she added.
Belmonte said the money will be used for the creation of the Gaming Regulatory Advisory Council--a unit which will oversee the enforcement of regulations. The fee would also be used to treat gambling problem and for conducting information and education campaign.
"Yung creation ng Gambling Regulatory Advisory Council sa local level is supposed to aid PAGCOR to enforce their various regulations that's why I'm quite surprised at their adverse reaction," she said.
Belmonte said that during a consultation with PAGCOR Chief Andrea Domingo, she was made aware that the ordinance was illegal as per PAGCOR's charter.
Citing the Local Government Code, she said it is the sworn duty of local officials to protect the welfare of their people.
"I think they are very hardline about that regulatory function should only belong to them but I think they don't also understand the proximity of this structure should it be erected to various very vulnerable sectors," she said.
“Let's just both do our jobs the way we see fit for the welfare of our people and I welcome a TRO from you and let the court decide eventually,” she added.