No public go-signal for Boracay casino
ILOILO CITY — The local government of Malay town in Aklan endorsed the controversial $500-million casino project on Boracay Island last year without holding a public consultation, just before it imposed a moratorium on new casinos.
Malay Vice Mayor Abram Sualog said the municipal council passed a resolution endorsing the project after a letter from the proponent was transmitted to the council by Mayor Ciceron Cawaling.
Sualog said the council passed the resolution without public consultation because there were already four existing casinos operating on the island which cater to foreign passport holders.
One of the conditions in endorsing the gaming resort project was that no residents would be allowed in the casino, he said.
Sualog said the council imposed a moratorium on the putting up of new casinos to limit this kind of establishments.
The Catholic Church in Aklan and several residents of Boracay Island are protesting the project of giant casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) and local partner Leisure Resorts World Corp. (LRWC).
The LRWC announced last week that it acquired a 23-hectare (ha) property for the project in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, one of the three villages of the 1,032-ha island.
The oppositors said the project is contrary to the proposed temporary closure of the island as part of a massive cleanup of illegal structures and the regulation of tourism activities on the island being undertaken by the national government.
Kalibo Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc said casinos “destroy the moral fiber” of families and result to other vices like illegal drugs.
He said that if necessary, the diocese would hold peaceful prayer rallies to show its opposition to the project.
“Putting up a casino is not cleaning up Boracay and may even be ‘dirtier’ than the other problems,” he said.
Some Boracay residents have criticized local officials after a photo was posted on social media, showing Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores and Malay Mayor Ciceron in Macau purportedly upon invitation of GEG.
The GEG operates a sprawling integrated resort casino in Macau.
The photo posted early February this year on the Facebook page of resort owner Leonard Tirol showed him with Miraflores, Cawaling and former Malay municipal councilor and now broadcaster Jonathan Cabrera.
The “Boracay Group” was “invited to Galaxy Macau,” according to the caption of the photo.
The photo has been taken down but a resident sent a screenshot to the Inquirer.
A source told the Inquirer that the group stayed in Macau from two to three days.
Cawaling and Miraflores did not respond to the calls and text messages of the Inquirer.
It is unclear who shouldered the travel expenses and accommodation of the group, especially the public officials.