Manila, Philippines – Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. may open a casino in the Philippines but not on Boracay Island, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
Galaxy last month won a provisional license for a $500-million integrated casino-resort project on the holiday island.
Roque said the grant of a provisional license to Galaxy gave it the right to operate a casino somewhere else.
President Duterte has ordered the closure of Boracay—which he described as a “cesspool”—for, at most, six months in order to rehabilitate it and clean it up. The closure starts on April 26.
“The President was talking about the physical existence of a casino in Boracay, which he will not allow unless he has issued a proclamation to this effect, because of the decision that Boracay is state-owned,” Roque said in a press briefing.
“So they (Galaxy) could have a provisional license. If they can’t build in Boracay, perhaps they could build elsewhere,” he added.
Roque said the President wanted to give priority to ordinary Filipinos and to farmers when it came to Boracay.
Before leaving for China on Monday, Mr. Duterte said he did not want a casino in Boracay.
The President met with owners of Galaxy Entertainment last December. Three months later, the gambling regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), granted Galaxy a provisional license to operate a casino.
Asked about this meeting given Mr. Duterte’s position on the casino construction, Roque said: “Well of course, we welcome all investors.”
“But I think the President has already addressed the issue of a new casino in Boracay: ‘There will be no new casino in Boracay,’” he added.
Earlier, Malacañang officials had defended the proposed casino in Boracay amid efforts to clean it up, saying any new construction would comply with environmental rules and that building the casino was not inconsistent with the rehabilitation efforts.
Galaxy partnered with Leisure and Resorts World Corp., which acquired the 23-hectare lot, for the casino project.
The provisional license is only the start of a long process that will allow Galaxy to start operations, Pagcor 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.