The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) isn’t earning any brownie points for itself by choosing to play the odd-man-out in the issue of casino residency in Boracay.
As a matter of fact, or so we’re told, Pagcor officials have managed to vex colleagues in government involved in the massive Boracay clean-up campaign for allegedly dragging their feet in canceling all permits and licenses previously granted to a slew of casino owners permitting them to set up shop on the island, in effect snubbing the guidance coming from Malacañang to facilitate Oplan: Regain Paradise.
Boracay, which opened its doors only last Friday and started welcoming back visitors, was shuttered totally last April 2018 and subjected to an exhaustive facelift upon orders of the President, who blew his top after seeing that the world-famed vacation spot had morphed into a “cesspool” due to the unabated flouting of existing environmental laws by business establishments, tourists and residents alike.
The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BITF), which was given the presidential mandate to exclusively oversee the huge task of “bringing back the glory” of Boracay by reversing its degradation through Executive Order (EO) 5 Series of 2018, had called out the state-run firm to withdraw the permits of all existing gambling concerns in light of the President’s previous pronouncement that he would no longer countenance the presence of any casino 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,” so said a letter to Pagcor last September that was signed jointly by Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary Ed Año of the Department of Interior and Local Government and Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat of the Department of Tourism.
In spite of this, Pagcor officials appeared to resist, saying apart from the legal issues, they would only recall casino permits already granted upon the explicit say so of Mr. Duterte considering the billions in projected monthly revenues the government stands to lose should this transpire.
Justice department officials assured the BITF that court cases challenging the cancelation of casino permits wouldn’t prosper since these aren’t contracts that oblige the state to fulfill certain obligations.
A casino license may be revoked at any time by the issuing agency (Pagcor), they said, because it is “an act of grace or grant of privilege not regularly available to other persons.”
But they said it would be of prime importance for the BITF to impress on the President the need to institutionalize the no casino policy by way of an EO to dissuade local courts from meddling.
Ms. Puyat is said to have informed the President there were a number of casinos long in business on the island prior to the controversial closure order, but was told firmly that even these would have to go because the government can’t afford being pilloried for playing favorites.
So far, the casinos that would be adversely impacted should Pagcor follow the BITF directive were identified as Movenpick Resort owned by businessman Alfredo Yao, Megaworld Corp. of billionaire Andrew Tan, Paradise Garden Resort of Joey Peña, Leisure Resorts owned by Rep. Albee Benitez which has a partnership with Galaxy Entertainment of Macau, as well as Vista Land and Lifescapes owned by the family of Sen. Cynthia Villar (who also heads the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources) which has reportedly embarked on several projects on the island.
Just got word that Pagcor is bowing to the demands of the BITF in withdrawing any casino license previously granted in line with the call of the Chief Executive.
“That’s the order of the President.”
Officials hastened to add, however, the cancelation all such permits was implemented as soon as the BITF letter was formally received by their Head Office, meaning there was no dilly-dallying or procrastinating on their part.
They said as of now only Galaxy-Leisure Resorts and Movenpick-Alpha Allied Holdings were issued casino licenses. So with the cancelation order in effect, this means the owners will have to go back to the drawing board to plot new business strategies.
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