DOJ: Executive order needed for 'no casino' policy on Boracay

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
DOJ: Executive order needed for 'no casino' policy on Boracay
President Rodrigo Duterte said there is no plan to build a casino on the world-famous island of Boracay.
Artwork by Philstar.com / Jonathan Asuncion

MANILA, Philippines— The Department of Justice on Thursday recommended that the Department of Tourism ask President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order for the no-casino policy on Boracay island.

In a recommendation letter on October 8, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Duterte has the authority to limit casino operations on the island, which is set to reopen to local and foreign tourists on Friday.

 “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,” the letter read.

“The state possesses police power to prohibit gambling in the Philippines or any part of it and this power was validly delegated by law to the PAGCOR (Philippine Amusment and Gaming Corporation), a government corporation, which is the subject to control by the president,” it added.

'To safeguard the morals of the people'

Guevarra said that the state is also allowed to impose restrictions on gambling citing that is an “exercise of police power in order to safeguard the morals of the people, promote the public welfare, and protect public interest.”

The DOJ chief made the recommendation after Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat wrote a letter to the department requesting for legal options for the implementation of Duterte’s no-casino policy on Boracay. Puyat’s letter was sent on September 14.

In her letter, Puyat stressed that Duterte repeatedly made it known that he wishes to implement a no-casino policy in Boracay. This is because the presence of casinos in the island does not mix well with family and beach tourism.

However,  it appears that three establishments are already operating as casinos on the island. They are also in possession of provisional licenses.

Due to this, the DOT presented options for the implementation of the no-casino policy. These include withholding of accreditation, president’s issuance of directives to PAGCOR and DILG for the renewal non issuance of licenses as well as an issuance of  EO declaring Boracay casino-free zone.

DOJ said “the legislation has validly delegated the establishment and operation of casinos to the PAGCOR.”

This is pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1869 series of 1983 as amended the PAGCOR’s charter, title IV section 10 or Grant of Franchise.

“PAGCOR possesses sufficient authority not only to prohibit future casino operations in Boracay but even to revoke the standing provisional licenses of the three casino operators on the island,” the DOJ said.

President can direct PAGCOR via EO

“The president may, by an EO, direct the PAGCOR to prohibit the grant of license to casinos in Boracay and cancel existing licenses already granted,” it added.

Guevarra reiterated that it shares the DOT’s opinion that no less than an EO is necessary to implement a no-casino policy on Boracay.

An EO is an act for a president to “provide rules of general or permanent character in implementation.”

Guevarra sent a copy of the letter to Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Acting DILG chief Eduardo Año, and Presidential Management Staff Undersecretary Ferdinand Cui.

Go has already resigned as SAP to run for senator in 2019.

Galaxy Entertainment Group

A month before the temporary closure of Boracay, PAGCOR signed a provisional license for a Macau-based casino giant Galaxy Entertainment Group ‘s integrated casino-resort project in Boracay island.

READ: What we know so far: Boracay casino projects amid concerns for 'cesspool' island | To build or not to build: Contradictory statements on Boracay casino plan

This drew controversy as Duterte then threatened to close the island for it has become a “cesspool.”

The executives paid a courtesy call at the Malacañan in December last year.

Galaxy chairman Lui Che Woo personally met Duterte to explain his plan to build an entertainment complex in Boracay. The supposed project was slated to be built in Barangay Manoc Manoc.

Despite this, Duterte since April changed tone and said no casinos would be allowed on Boracay island.

He reiterated this in August and said that there will be no casinos built aside from those that already exist.

RELATED: What we know so far: Duterte's 'no new casinos' directive 











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