Manila Casinos Remain Under Enhanced Quarantine, Extended Until Sept. 15

Posted on: September 8, 2021, 08:10h. 

Last updated on: September 8, 2021, 06:03h.

Manila casinos are remaining under the Philippines’ Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) for another week.

Philippines Manila casinos Duterte
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, seen in an illustration above, is allowing Manila casinos to move into the General Community Quarantine classification level. But a safety response system to new cases isn’t ready, and that is delaying the reopening of the gaming resorts. (Image: Philippine Star)

The country’s four integrated resorts in the capital region were set to ease into the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) level today. However, government officials say additional time is needed to implement an alert system that will notify the population of new COVID-19 cases, should they arise.

Metro Manila’s current risk classification as Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine shall be maintained until September 15, 2021, or until the pilot GCQ with Alert Level System is implemented, whichever comes first,” said Harry Roque, the spokesperson of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

Manila casinos — City of Dreams, Solaire, Okada, and Resorts World — shuttered their gaming operations on government orders in early April. They briefly reopened in May, but have since been forced to again lock their doors.

Other than select hotels at the resorts being utilized as designated quarantine sites, the complexes are currently fully closed.

Philippines’ COVID Response

Philippines officials say the extension of the MECQ for up to another week is to give its health agencies more time to make sure the alert system being implemented with the General Community Quarantine classification is effective.

When Manila enters the GCQ, numerous activities will return. Hotels and casinos can reopen, indoor dining can resume operations up to 30 percent capacity, and certain indoor businesses like supermarkets can return to full occupancy.

The GCQ comes with four levels of severity. Alert Level 1, which is considered the new normal, is where people are encouraged to maintain social distancing when possible and stay home when not feeling well. The polar opposite is Alert Level 4, where everyone other than health care workers are to remain inside their homes.

Upon confirmation of a new COVID-19 positive test result, an alert will notify the population in the region of the news, and advise whether the GCQ is moving into a more severe alert level.

The Philippines Inter-Agency Task Force of the Emerging Infectious Diseases is overseeing the implementation of the technological response system.

Industry Suffering, Duterte Responds

The long closures of Manila resort operations are devastating not only to the actual casinos but also to the Filipino government. Gaming taxes play a vital role in the government’s health. But that revenue has plunged amid the pandemic.

Duterte has taken steps — some countering his long opposition to increased gambling — to help bridge the funding gap.

The president has permitted Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) to continue facilitating online gambling for people located outside the Philippines. Duterte has also allowed the four Manila casinos to operate online baccarat and interactive slots for its well-documented VIP clientele.

Most surprising was Duterte’s announcement in late August that he was lifting his moratorium on allowing a casino to be built on Boracay Island.

Duterte’s presidential term that began in June of 2016 is set to expire on June 30, 2022. Philippines law limits presidents to serve a single six-year term. No president who has served four or more years is permitted to run or serve again.