DOT hands off in promotion, construction of casinos in Boracay

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The Department of Tourism clarified on Friday that it has no involvement in the promotion or construction of casinos on Boracay Island. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — The Department of Tourism clarified on Friday that it has no involvement in the promotion or construction of casinos on Boracay Island.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat made the clarification when asked about the agency's plans to promote tourism should casinos begin their operations in Boracay following President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders.

Kabahagi ba ng inyong very aggressive campaign sa tourism sector na i-promote ang Philippines as gambling tourism haven, especially (since) the ban on casinos has been lifted by the President?,” Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate asked Romulo-Puyat during the budget hearing of the DOT at the House of Representatives.

[Translation: Is it part of the tourism department's aggressive campaign in the tourism sector to promote the Philippines as a gambling tourism haven?]

“When you say casinos, it’s under [Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation] mister chair, and that’s not under the Department of Tourism,” Romulo-Puyat told lawmakers.

Zarate then asked if the DOT is studying the possibility of attracting tourists, or who are the target market for the opening of casinos in the first place.

“When we promote the country, we promote sun and beach," Romulo-Puyat explained. "Right now, ang hinahanap ng travelers abroad ay how safe to travel to the country once restrictions are lifted. Hinahanap nila kung bakunado ba ang ating tourism workers which we are doing.”

[Translation: Right now, travelers abroad want to know how safe it is to travel to the country once restrictions are lifted. They are asking if our tourism workers are vaccinated, which is what we are doing.]

Zarate then countered the secretary, saying Boracay has been offering the ‘sun and beach’ ever since. He asked if Romulo-Puyat supports Duterte’s decision on casinos in Boracay.

“That is the decision of the president, so we follow the president,” Romulo-Puyat replied.

Last month, President Duterte lifted the ban on casino operations in Boracay to generate taxes in order to augment the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response funds.

PAGCOR said the President Duterte has given the go signal for Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group and Andrew Tan’s casino-resort projects in Boracay.