De Lima seeks probe into contracts allowing casinos to operate in Boracay


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima called for a Senate investigation into the lifting of moratorium on the opening of casinos in the recently rehabilitated Boracay island and allowing a Chinese company to put-up an integrated casino-resort project in the country’s famous tourist destination.

In filing Proposed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 907, De Lima underscored the need to determine the best policy that takes into consideration the economic needs of the national and local governments in Aklan, the protection of the environment, and the conservation of the island.

“In intensifying its pandemic response, the government must not be self-defeating so as to forego the gains of Boracay rehabilitation over the years,” she said.

“After having expended both time and resources to restore this paradise, all risks that would make years in rehabilitation efforts and billions in public funds all for naught, must be most stringently examined,” she added.

Last August, Mr. Duterte declared a reversal of his formerly firm stance against gambling in Boracay, with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reasoning that the President had given his go-signal for the operation of a casino at the popular tourist spot to supposedly augment funds for COVID-19 response.

Not long after such pronouncement, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) confirmed that Duterte has given his go-signal to the plan of Chinese company Galaxy Entertainment to proceed with putting up an integrated casino-resort project in Boracay which he earlier halted.

It can be recalled that in 2018, public uproar erupted when it was announced that Boracay island was to be shut down for six months after environmental violations were discovered due to rapid development and pollution that threatened its idyllic shores.

On the same month that Boracay was sealed off from the public in 2018, Duterte claimed that he knew nothing about plans of Galaxy Entertainment to build a casino-resort in Boracay which was later belied by Malacañang photos showing him meeting with officials of the company on Dec. 6, 2017.

De Lima said the Senate must launch an exhaustive probe into any and all government contracts intending to grant franchises to casino operators in Boracay especially when no less than the President himself and his officials have previously repeatedly opposed and resisted such movement.

“Having already recognized the deleterious effects to the island of allowing casinos to open, questions must be raised to ascertain whether a drastic flip-flopping on the government’s stance is reasonable, or whether such decision is controlled and influenced by personal ties and commitments,” she said.

“There is no apparent urgent need for revenue to reverse what is already an accepted policy against casinos in Boracay,” she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol further said that the Senate as a legislative body must investigate with utmost scrutiny to ensure that the value of Boracay as a natural treasure is not diminished, and all matters relating to and affecting every square inch thereof is dissected.

“It is imperative to determine whether there exist other measures that would aid the government in its programs aimed at boosting its COVID-19 response without causing harm anew to the already rehabilitated island,” she said.

“It is likewise important to consider that Boracay should remain a family destination for local and international tourists and should be free from vices associated with casinos and gambling destinations,” she added.

As already raised by business owners in Boracay, De Lima noted that the best thing the government can do for Boracay residents is to vaccinate them so that the island can fully reopen.

“The Senate must also look into the vaccination rates in the island so that it may be informed whether government efforts are enough in vaccination which would allow it to fully open its shores to tourism so it may usher in cash flow again,” she said. (30)

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