Philippines shelves casino plan on Boracay

MANILA • The Philippines yesterday shelved a plan by Macau's Galaxy Entertainment Group to build a US$500 million (S$656 million) integrated casino-resort on a holiday island that will be closed for a clean-up.

Macau casino operator Galaxy last month won a provisional licence for the project in Boracay, which Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called a "cesspool" due to pollution.

"There will be no new casino in Boracay," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a news conference in Hong Kong that was aired live in Manila. While Galaxy has a provisional licence from the gaming regulator, it cannot build its gaming project in Boracay, Mr Roque said, adding that Mr Duterte had not issued an order allowing a new casino on the island.

Galaxy partnered with Leisure and Resorts World Corporation, which acquired the 23ha lot, for the casino project.

The Philippines' gambling sector has benefited from warmer ties with China, a key source of wealthy gamblers, since the South-east Asian country set aside territorial hostility with Beijing in exchange for pledges of loans and investments.

The provisional licence is only the start of a long process that will allow Galaxy to start operations, the Philippines' gaming regulator said in a statement yesterday.The companies have yet to submit documentary requirements such as proof of land ownership and a detailed project plan, it added.

The Philippines is looking to shorten the closure period for Boracay to four months from six months, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said. The island's closure highlights the growing pressures on beach resorts across South-east Asia as infrastructure buckles under mass tourism.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline 'Philippines shelves casino plan on Boracay'. Print Edition | Subscribe