A congressional leader has appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his directive to allow casino operations in Boracay, the country’s top tourist destination.
In a letter addressed to the President received by Malacañang on September 3, Deputy Speaker Bienvenido Abante Jr. urged Duterte “to protect the crown jewel of Philippine tourism.”
“Mr. President, people from here and all over the world go to Boracay for its beaches, not baccarat; they flock to the island for peace and tranquility, not poker tournaments,” Abante said in his letter.
“This representation humbly appeals to Your Excellency to save Boracay again––by keeping it gambling-free and by preventing it from becoming a cesspool of casinos.”
Abante, in his letter, recalled the President having ordered in April 2018 “the temporary closure of the island to tourists to allow the government to address environmental issues that had plagued the popular tourist destination for years.”
“Because of this timely intervention, the government was able to take significant steps to reverse the abuse and neglect that had turned the island into––as Your Excellency accurately and bluntly put it––a cesspool,” said Abante in his letter.
Abante said he acknowledges the need for the government to raise government revenues “as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has stretched our financial resources and––due to its adverse effects on the economy––has negatively impacted government revenue streams.”
But he stressed “that opening Boracay to gambling is not the answer.”
The Deputy Speaker provided the President with pre-pandemic data that showed that the island already has the capacity to earn billions of pesos from inbound tourists.
“According to data from the Department of Tourism, in the first 10 months of 2019 tourism in Boracay generated a total of 49.86 billion pesos in revenue due to its 1.74 million visitors. This figure is 151.76 percent greater than that of the same period in the preceding year,” Abante said.
The figures, added Abante, shows the wisdom behind the temporary closure of Boracay and the potential it can earn from tourism alone.