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Boracay residents rally against casino

BORACAY Island, Philippines—Hundreds of residents of Boracay Island and Aklan joined a protest rally here on Saturday against plans to put up casinos on the island resort.

Bearing placards saying “Casino salot sa Boracay,” the protesters called on the government to reject any application to operate “all forms of casinos” on the island.

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The protest was spearheaded by various religious groups including the Catholic Church and Protestant churches, as well as business operators and civic groups.

Among the groups that joined were the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Aklan, Couples for Christ, Boracay Foundation Inc., El Shaddai and the federation of senior citizens of Malay town where Boracay is located.

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“We hope that President Aquino and the national government will listen to our appeals to reject the casino petitions,” Boracay parish priest Fr. Magloire Placer said.

The Malay local government has endorsed two applications for operating a casino and a “junket operation” in Boracay.

These include the proposal of the Cariño Development Management Corp. (CDMC) to build a casino at the posh 120-hectare Fairways and Bluewater Resort Golf and Country Club and the application of the Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center to be a venue of “junket operation” on Boracay. Junket operations are preorganized gambling tournaments for foreign players.

The Malay town government earlier said they were opposed to unregulated casinos but favored those limited to foreign tourists. They said allowing the casinos could provide additional revenues for the municipality.

But the protesters said the island does not need casinos to raise revenues and attract more tourists.

“Boracay developed and became popular without casinos,” business and civic leader Rufina Villaroman said in a speech.

Around 20 members of the Ati community marched from their community in Sitio (settlement) Bulabog (village) in Barangay Balabag to the Balabag plaza where the rally was held.

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The Ati community members, considered the earliest settlers on Boracay, said the entry of casinos on the island would erode the values and culture of the community. “We have been opposing plans to put up casinos ever since. We want simple lives and we want our children to grow up without the influence of gambling,” Evangeline Tambuon of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization, said.

Father Placer belied allegations that he accepted money from a group of Korean Christian businessmen in exchange for stopping his opposition to the casino.

Placer said the parish had decided to return P1 million donated by representatives of the Korean Catholic Mission purportedly to help in the construction of the parish convent.

“Whether it’s legal or not, we opted to return it the way the bishops had returned the vehicles donated by the (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) to avoid controversy,” Placer said.

But David Yun, who donated the money in May, admitted that he is part of a group of Korean investors planning to operate “junket operation” at the Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center.

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TAGS: Boracay, Casinos and Gambling, protest, Protestant, rally, Regions, Roman Catholic Church
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