Gov’t task force bats for casino-free Boracay

Playing in casinos will not count among the recreational activities tourists can look forward to in the newly reopened Boracay Island.

This developed as the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) led by Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has formally requested the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) to cancel all gaming franchises and provisional licenses issued in Boracay.

In a letter to PAGCOR chair and chief executive officer Andrea Domingo, the BIATF cited the “pronouncement of President Duterte that no casino shall be allowed in Boracay” in seeking for the cancellation of PAGCOR licenses on the island.

“We shall be grateful for your timely cooperation on this matter for the protection of one of our nation’s most treasured islands,” reads the letter signed by BIATF vice chairs Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on behalf of the task force.

Cimatu aired his continuing objection to the reported plan to build a casino complex in Boracay, which was floated even before the island was closed to tourists in April for a six-month rehabilitation.

He said the BIATF would be firm on enforcing Boracay’s daily carrying capacity with preference to “nature-loving tourists” rather than gamblers.

“Now that the island’s waters and beaches are back to their pristine condition, we would rather that true nature lovers come and enjoy them,” he said.

A study commissioned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources showed that Boracay has a carrying capacity of 19,000 tourists per day or about 55,000 people including residents, workers and tourists.

“Let us properly use the island for its real purpose—sun, sea and sand so that what we all worked hard for will not go to waste,” Cimatu pointed out.

Prior to the closure of Boracay on April 26, Cimatu has already voiced his opposition to the planned $500 million hotel and casino project of Galaxy Entertainment Group and its local partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp.

“Boracay already has enough hotel rooms. Adding more and filling these with guests will again lead to more trash and more wastewater,” Cimatu explained. “Then, we’re back to square one.” ###