MANILA - Will the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation follow President Rodrigo Duterte's orders and scrap plans to build casinos on Boracay island?
According to Pagcor chief Andrea Domingo, the agency will follow the President's orders but noted she hopes Duterte will see that the Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment will not destroy the environment.
"Empleyado lang ako, appointee ako ni Presidente, Kung ano 'yung sasabihin ni Presidente, 'yun naman ang mangyayari," she told radio DZMM on Tuesday.
"But the thing is—the President is a very intelligent and discerning person. Pag naman maipakita na siguro ito ay makabubuti nga, sapagkat hindi naman mag-i-invest ang isang Galaxy [Entertainment] na $1.4 trillion ang portfolio, ng P25 billion para dumihin at sirain ang environment at para malugi sila."
Domingo said the provisional license they signed for Galaxy Entertainment and its Filipino partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp., to build a gaming facility inside a 23-hectare leisure complex in the island of Boracay was issued after the local government posed no objection.
"'Yung provisional license parang sinasabi lang namin na, 'okay na-meet mo 'yung requirements. Puwede kang mag-proceed na i-meet 'yung requirements for a real license. It's a first step for a very long process," she told DZMM.
One of the requirements needed to be granted a Pagcor license, Domingo said, is to follow all environmental laws and regulations. She noted that Galaxy Entertainment is an environmentally aware company.
"Ang Galaxy [Entertainment], hindi lang siya ang pinakamalaki at pinaka-prestigious na gaming dito sa Asia. Siya rin ang nag-correct ng sewage system ng buong Hong Kong so they are very environmentally concerned," she said.
The lack of sewage coverage in Boracay is one of the island's biggest problems that supposedly led to the degradation of the quality of sea water.
Domingo also said the casino will only take 7.5 percent of the whole resort complex. She said each casino machine or table should have a corresponding number of hotel rooms before it is allowed to operate.
"Kapag nakapagpatayo na sila, bibilangin namin 'yung machines na gusto nilang ilagay, at 'yung tables. Tas bibilangan namin ang hotel rooms kung sumusunod sila sa formula," she explained.
NOT JUST ONE CASINO
Aside from Galaxy's gaming facility, Resorts World Manila has also met the requirements needed in its proposal to have a casino built inside Savoy Hotel, Megaworld's 150-hectare development in the eastern part in Boracay, said the PAGCOR chief.
"Nag-apply sila August 2014 pa. Actually na-meet na nila ang requirements at wala na kaming problema kasi within the deadline naman ang ano ni President," she said, noting that the investment poured in by the company is at P15 billion.
"Dapat din 'yung mga nagko-comment puntahan nila kasi sa P15 billion na investment. And again 7.5 percent lang ng total area iya ang magiging puwede sa casino. We do not allow anything more," she added.
Domingo added that Savoy Hotel in Boracay also brings about 3,500 tourists in a Genting cruise ship weekly. She said the ship, which cruises in Asia, also has a casino inside.
"Linggo-linggo may dumarating sila na 3,500 tourists na nakasakay sa Genting cruise ship. All over Asia umiikot 'yan at meron 'yang casino sa loob. Pagkatapos dadaong sa Boracay and 3,500 tourists every week nag-i-istay diyan sa Boracay," she said.
The Pagcor chief clarified that the proposed casino at Savoy Hotel is not yet operational.
Duterte on Monday told reporters he did not say anything about building even a nipa hut on the island paradise because he wants to give the land to farmers.
"Wala akong planong casino. Tama na yan kasi sobra na. Casino rito, casino roon. Give it to the people who need it the most," he said.
"It's going to be a land reform area for the Filipino. If you want to build something there, you can build it floating some...unahin ko yun. Lilinisin ko lang naman, ibalik ko sa Filipino yung lupa nila."
He earlier said the island, which attracts millions of tourists yearly, will be shut down for a massive cleanup and rehabilitation.