Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte doubled down on his position that Boracay Island won’t be permitted to welcome casinos, and the controversial leader now says the decision is the “voice of god.”
Boracay reopened in October after a six-month island-wide cleanup directed by Duterte, who called the popular vacation destination a “cesspool” that “smelled of sh*t.” Workers cleaned the beaches and waters, which had become contaminated due to a deteriorating and inadequate sewer system where clogged pipes were common.
Now back to its pristine self, commercial casino operators continue to express interest in investing in resorts so long as gaming is permitted. Duterte says it won’t happen.
Visiting Boracay this week, the president said the people who live there do not want gambling.
The voice of the people is the voice of god. If it is the wish of the population here that they do not want a casino, then there will be no casino,” Duterte declared.
PAGCOR, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation, had issued a provisional license to a partnership between Hong Kong billionaire Lui Che Woo’s Galaxy Entertainment and Philippines-based Leisure & Resorts World Corporation for a $500 million casino and hotel on Boracay. Duterte said not so fast.
“You know the billionaires? They want to build casinos there. I did not allow it,” the president explained.
Lui said the project was misunderstood, and that the half of a billion dollars he’s ready to invest was predominantly geared towards hospitality. Gaming would constitute just a small part of the complex, the billionaire stated.
Galaxy, one of the six licensees in Macau, said it would press on with the project. Duterte countered this week by saying he doesn’t even need to issue a formal executive order to block the development.
The president declared that gambling is officially banned in Boracay “whether I put it in writing or say it verbally.”
Along with the Boracay decree, Duterte recently motioned to stop a $1.5 billion casino resort in Manila’s Entertainment City. Developer Landing International had just held its ceremonial groundbreaking when the president called off the project after learning of a land-lease deal that he deemed “unconscionable” and “disadvantageous to the government.”
He fired the entire local board that signed off on the deal, which included one of his relatives.
Ruthless Reign Continues
Duterte has become one of the more controversial world leaders since taking office in June 2016. His anti-corruption campaign and law enforcement directive to shoot first and ask questions later has been criticized by various groups including the UN.
The New York Times reports that a Filipino lawyer named Benjamin Ramos, 56, was murdered leaving his office this week. Ramos was a founding member of a group of attorneys who opposed Duterte’s lethal war against those suspected to be involved in the drug trade.
Ramos’ organization, the National Union of People’s Lawyers, provides pro bono services for poor clients whose families have been targeted by police for their alleged involvement with narcotics. The Times says Ramos is the 34th lawyer who’s been murdered since Duterte became president.