The ‘no casino’ policy as well as stricter measures against partying in tourist hotspot Boracay Island has been lauded by those fond of the island following its reopening after a six-month rehabilitation period
Among the new policies reportedly being enforced are a total ban on alcohol on the beaches and setting up of beds, tables and chairs and beach umbrellas within the new 30-meter exclusion zone along the shoreline. Water sports, such as jet skiing, have also been limited to 200 meters away from the shoreline.
Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said that visitors in the island will be limited to a maximum capacity of 19,000. In an interview with Indonesian media, she explained that while environmental regulations have already been in place, there was a need for stricter implementation.
“Eco-friendly policies have been in place for a long time – this is nothing new. People just need to follow them. The environment is important. We need to change the mindset of the people,” she said in the interview.
She and the heads of the two other agencies tasked with the island’s rehabilitation, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, have requested the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation to cancel all gaming licenses in the island.
They indicated in the letter that the directive came from President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra concurred with Romulo’s request for stricter policies, recommending that Duterte issue an executive order on the policy.
Puyat had earlier sent a letter asking for legal options to properly implement the ‘no casino’ policy.
“Based on a review of the applicable law and jurisprudence, this department is of the opinion that the issuance of an EO would be the most expedient and effective means of halting the operation of casinos and implementing a no-casino policy in Boracay,” Guevara wrote in his recommendation letter to the Palace.
Jose Tria Jr., special assistant to the PAGCOR chairman and chief executive officer on Tuesday said that PAGCOR had no problem cancelling such licenses on the island.
Hotels with casinos were reportedly barred from resuming operations following the island’s reopening.
— Jenny Lavelle (@JennyLavelle_) October 26, 2018
Most of the people who will praise the "new" Boracay are the same people who bashed the idea of rehab a few months ago. Wont acknowledge the ballsy call to close it down. Like most allegations (casinos, friends with benefits), they aint happening.
Hanap uli ng next na mali! https://t.co/ZK4IYV5kis
— Dré Gonzales 🇵🇭 (@dregonz) October 25, 2018
The road to rehabilitation
Boracay has been regarded as one of the country’s most popular destinations for party-goers and beach lovers. It is believed to generate as much as P56 billion yearly.
Despite some protest from business owners, Duterte in April 2018 ordered its six-month closure, citing the environmental damage caused by unregulated tourism on the island.
The rehabilitation is believed to have closed 440 hotels, 2,600 businesses and cost around 35,000 jobs.
The provisional license granted to Macau-based casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group for the construction of a casino on the island has been criticized, with some claiming that the rehabilitation was actually a front for its construction.
The Palace however has continued to deny its support for the casino, reiterating the president’s stance against gambling on the island.
Duterte in April 2018 said that apart from saving the island from environmental degradation, he also wanted to distribute agricultural land on Boracay to farmers.
The Department of Agricultural Reform in June 2018 reported that agrarian reform on the island could cover up to 845 hectares. Of these, close to eight hectares will be distributed to the indigenous Ati-ati people of Boracay, shortly before the island’s reopening.