“It is already clear to the public that Duterte’s directive to rehabilitate the island is only a “lutong macau” because there are already giant conglomerates that will replace local infrastructures and businesses in the island.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Despite President Duterte’s efforts to distance himself from the proposed Chinese-owned casino resort project in Boracay, Bayan Muna Partylist representatives filed a resolution in Congress directing the Committee on Natural Resources and Committee on Ecology to jointly investigate the looming shutdown of Boracay.
The progressive partylist is concerned with the environmental issues that have repeatedly surfaced concerning Boracay, but it is skeptical of the real plans of the Duterte administration. Weeks before issuing pronouncements against “cesspool” Boracay, the Duterte administration approved a Chinese-owned mega casino project in the island.
President Duterte denies knowledge of the casino but his activities showed a different picture. The President Communications Operations Office said in a press release December 6 last year that officials of the Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group paid a courtesy call on President Duterte. Some two months after this meeting, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the provisional license for Galaxy’s 23-hectare leisure complex was approved.
A month after approving the casino project, the looming closure of Boracay ostensibly for “rehabilitation” was announced. Now the six-month closure is scheduled to begin April 26. Only residents of the island, volunteers and government troops would then remain there, but even the volunteers would have to leave the island before nightfall.
Fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson and former Anakpawis Party-list solon Fernando Hicap said in another statement that President Duterte is making a fool out of the Filipino people by denying his knowledge on the planned Chinese casino in Boracay. “It is already clear to the public that Duterte’s directive to rehabilitate the island is only a “lutong macau” because there are already giant conglomerates that will replace local infrastructures and businesses in the island.”
Hastening to soothe the public’s growing skepticism with the so-called rehabilitation of Boracay, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo and Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said, in a television interview morning of April 11 with ANC, that the shutdown may be shortened to just four months. They also mentioned that the casino may be built in Caticlan.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate finds it very ironic, even intriguing, he said, that while the government recommends the island’s closure for months for its supposed rehabilitation, it allowed the entry and construction of a mega casino-resort.
Through the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), the government granted Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) and its listed local partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) a gaming license to operate a $500-million integrated 23-hectare casino-resort in Boracay, with the construction to begin soon, said Bayan Muna.
Aside from the high-end casino, Pamalakaya said, a certain DoubleDragon Properties Corp. confirmed that they will build the country’s largest hotel by room count in Boracay dubbed as Hotel 101 Resorts. The two-hectare property will have 1,001 rooms that will be located inside Megaworld’s Boracay Newcoast.
Boracay is currently hosting an average of 14,182 visitors daily. Bayan Muna worries that in the name of “rehabilitation,” small local businesses and jobs of tens of thousands of people may be eased out by favored big-ticket projects in Boracay.
For the fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, the total closure is undemocratic. It has previously scored the Duterte administration for what it calls “sweeping decision without democratic consultation” with the affected stakeholders especially the workers.
“The government must stand and support local small businesses over foreign-owned large businesses. The sale of our lands, resources, and work force to foreign corporations have historically destroyed our environment and exploited and endangered our workers without heed,” Zarate said in Bayan Muna’s resolution.