Andrew Tan has announced that his company, GERI, will go ahead with a project to develop a casino resort on Boracay despite criticism from residents and business owners.
The Philippines.- After Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte reignited the possibility of allowing gambling on Boracay, billionaire Andrew Tan, chief executive officer and vice chairman of Tan’s Global-Estate Resorts, Inc. (GERI), has announced he has a project for a casino resort on Boracay Newcoast.
He has said he intends to go ahead with the plan despite opposition from residents and environmental groups.
Tan said: “We already have several hotels there and we are still building more. There is also a golf course, the only one in the entire Boracay Island. We are very hopeful that the tourism industry in this island will recover fast after the pandemic.”
There are currently two proposals in Boracay, Tan’s project and LRWC’s potential casino resort on which it seeks to work with Galaxy Entertainment Group.
Alfredo Abelardo Benitez, LRWC director, confirmed to GMA News Online that he plans to revive talks with Galaxy Entertainment to resume their partnership.
An original project was announced in December 2017, after LRWC bought the parcels of land in Boracay for US$500m. However, Duterte then closed the island destination to tourism due to concerns for the environment. He said that the increased number of visitors on the island was turning Boracay into a “cesspool.”
LRWC dropped its plan for a casino on its 23-hectare property in Boracay leaving Galaxy Entertainment as a sole investor. However, a few weeks ago Duterte said his country needs income to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Duterte stated: “We don’t have money now. Where we can get money, I will get it. If it will be from gambling, so be it.”
However, Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd is cautious about the possibility of Galaxy Entertainment being interested in Boracay now as it faces the expiry of its current Macau gaming rights in June 2022.
Boracay residents opposed to gambling on the island
Residents, businessmen and environmental activists have shown concern regarding a possible casino development in Boracay.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment has said that amid the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions, casinos cannot contribute to economic recovery as tourist visitation remain restricted. The group added authorities should focus on increasing the vaccination rate on the island to allow the return of foreign visitors.
Residents had already feared that the creation of the Boracay Island Development Authority as a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) could lead casinos on the Philippine island.
Natividad Bernardino, chairman of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group, said: “The problem of Boracay is one of over-tourism and overdevelopment. What we need in terms of sustaining the rehabilitation and ecological sustainability of the island is a regulatory body instead of a GOCC.”
She said the island has already exceeded its carrying capacity for the environment and population, and that there is no more space for further investment and development.