The Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) admitted that the proposed construction of a $500-million resort on Boracay contradicts the recently announced decision for the the island’s closure for an environmental cleanup.
DENR Chief, Roy Cimatu, met with island stakeholders on Monday to discuss the imminent closure of the island and the recently introduced project for a casino resort. The official acknowledged that the $500-million scheme contradicted efforts to be taken for Boracay’s rehabilitation. However, he pointed out that developers are yet to receive much needed environmental approval before being able to begin construction.
The approval is issued by Mr. Cimatu’s agency.
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It became known earlier this month that Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment Group and its Philippine partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp. want to build a $500-million casino resort on Boracay. The two companies received a provisional casino license from PAGCOR, the Philippine gambling regulator.
Developers now need to apply for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) in order to be able to build their complex. Mr. Cimatu said that the certificate will only be issued after his agency carries out a study on the carrying capacity of the island, that is the maximum number of locals and visitors it could fit.
The official explained that the last such study was compiled ten years ago and the island was on the cusp of reaching its maximum carrying capacity back then. Mr. Cimatu also told media after its meeting with Boracay stakeholders that DENR’s environmental assessment would play the most important role when the department decides on whether to issue the necessary certificate to Galaxy and its local partner.
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Not a ‘Mega’ Resort
The announcement about the $500-million casino resort was met with opposition from environmental groups and residents of the island. Concerns were raised about the social impact of the property as well as its impact on the island’s environment.
In a Monday statement, Leisure and Resorts World said that their property is not intended to be a ‘mega’ resort with a casino, but a family-friendly complex. The company further explained that the casino portion of the resort would occupy no more than 7.5% of its total floor and that they expect to generate the greater part of their revenue from hotel rooms and different non-gambling attractions.
Boracay and its tourism industry are bracing for a six-month closure for an environmental cleanup. Three government agencies recommended last week that the island be closed for a period of six months starting April 26. While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that he supports the move, he is yet to issue an order for Boracay’s shutdown specifying the exact date for the start of the island’s rehabilitation.
The famed tourism hub found itself at the center of a media storm back in February when President Duterte unleashed a clampdown on a number of properties that had been built in violation of multiple construction and environmental laws.
Some of the buildings were found to have been built on wetlands, others did not even have all the necessary permissions. There were also multiple structures to have been constructed without being connected to a proper sewerage system, basically throwing wastewater on the island’s white-sand beaches. The imminent cleanup will aim to resolve all these issues.