Philippines shelves Galaxy's planned US$500m casino resort on Boracay

Tourists resting on the beach at Boracay, Philippines on April 8, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines on Wednesday (April 11) shelved a plan by Macau's Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd to build a US$500 million (S$654 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 an integrated casino-resort project in the island of 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, Roque said, adding that Duterte had not issued an order allowing a new casino on the island.

Galaxy partnered with Leisure and Resorts World Corp , which acquired the 23-hectare lot, for the casino project. Galaxy and Leisure were not immediately available for comment outside office hours.

The Philippines' gambling sector has benefited from warmer ties with China, a key source of wealthy gamblers, since the Southeast 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 on Wednesday.

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, the tourism minister said. The island's closure highlights the growing pressures on beach resorts across Southeast Asia as infrastructure buckles under mass tourism.

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