Duterte denies knowing about planned Boracay casino

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte denied he knew about plans to construct a casino in Boracay.

The planned casino angered netizens and critics who claimed it was proof that the government is not sincere in efforts to protect the popular tourist destination.

The supposed casino would be built by a Chinese company.

"Walang plano diyang casino-casino. Tama na iyan kasi sobra na. May casino dito, casino doon," Duterte said in a press conference on Monday, April 9, before leaving for China.

(There are no plans for a casino. Let's stop it because it's too much. There's a casino here, casino there.)

For the President, Boracay should be a farmers' island instead.

"Consider Boracay a land reform area. I will give it to the farmers, to the Filipinos first," he said.

"I will issue a proclamation. Lahat 'yan, lahat (all of the lands), agricultural," he added.

Duterte said that, according to the law, Boracay is mostly comprised of agricultural or forest land.

"The law says it is forest, agricultural. Why would I deviate from that?" he said.

The 6-month closure order, said the President, would be in preparation for the return of the land "to the people who need it the most." (READ: CHEAT SHEET: What to expect from Boracay closure)

"It's going to be a land reform area for the Filipinos. If you want to build something there, they can build a floating –" he said.

Boracay's 6-month closure to tourists begins on April 26. (READ: Is the government prepared for Boracay's closure?– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.