President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted a three-year-old ban on the entry of new casinos in the country, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chairman Andrea Domingo confirmed on Friday.
“He (Duterte) announced it in public so that is now the current policy,” Domingo told GMA News Online, referring to Duterte’s announcement on Thursday that he will now allow the establishment of casinos in the resort island of Boracay “because the government is running out of funds.”
In his televised address Thursday, the President said in Filipino: “If you say, ‘Duterte, I thought you hated gambling. Now you want a gambling house in Boracay? You’re encouraging the tourists.’”
“Forgive me for the contradiction. We don’t have money now. Where we can get money, I will get it. If it will be from gambling, so be it,” the President added.
“If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong. If I didn’t keep my word, that’s right I didn’t. But I need money to run the government because I’m going to have a lot of expenses,” he added.
Senator Nancy Binay on Friday expressed opposition to the move.
“I am totally against bringing back gambling activities in Boracay. That is not the type of tourist that we want in Boracay. There are other means to collect more revenues,” Binay, chair of the Senate committee on tourism, said in an ANC interview.
“We all know that Boracay is the crown jewel of our tourism industry. The efforts for the island to be brought back will be put to waste if we will allow gambling activities in the island,” she said.
Binay pointed out that no matter how much the government revenue is, these funds will be put to waste if the departments and agencies are not spending it wisely.
In February 2018, Duterte ordered a halt on the entry and creation of new casinos in the Philippines to prevent an oversupply.
In the same year, he criticized officials of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation for granting a gambling franchise to a foreign company for 75 years in what would have been a $1.5-billion theme park at the Entertainment City in Paranaque City.
Duterte said then he would not allow more casinos “outside of what is existing.”
But last July, the President said he was in favor of raising government funds from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) and casinos.
Binay said the Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority must explain how much revenues will the government collect if the casinos will be opened in Boracay.
“I am also wondering who advised the President that gambling in Boracay is an option to get more revenues, and I don’t think that the income from gambling in Boracay will be sufficient for government’s use,” she said.