FACT CHECK: Clueless about Boracay casino? Duterte discussed it with owners

Pia Ranada
FACT CHECK: Clueless about Boracay casino? Duterte discussed it with owners
(UPDATED) The President claims he knows nothing about the planned casino-resort but the project was discussed in his meeting with the Chinese executives behind it

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte claimed on Monday, April 9 that he knew nothing about plans of a Chinese company to build a casino-resort in Boracay.

But Malacañang photos show Duterte met with officials of the company only 4 months ago and Filipino officials present at the meeting said the casino was discussed.

Duterte held a meeting with Lui Che-woo, chairman of Galaxy Entertainment, a Macau-based casino company, on December 6, 2017 in the Palace.

Also present was Galaxy vice chairman Francis Lui Yiu Tung, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) chairperson Andrea Domingo.

Domingo’s previous statements to media showed the casino-resort was discussed during the courtesy call.

She was even quoted by ABS-CBN News as saying that the Galaxy Entertainment officials had assured Duterte they would preserve Boracay’s environment during the casino’s construction.

“I don’t think they would risk losing that investment by dumping filth in front of their property,” she had said.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, on Tuesday, claimed Duterte’s denial is a “blatant lie.”

“That is a blatant lie, that is why I showed this because it is clear this is a courtesy call. When there is a courtesy call by a big businessman, that means it’s a done deal,” he said during a press conference.

DISCUSSIONS. Tourism and PAGCOR officials are present at the meeting. Malacañang file photo

Pagcor, last March, granted the provisional license to Galaxy Entertainment for the Boracay casino. Construction is scheduled to take place in 2019.

The $500-million integrated casino resort will be built on a 23-hectare property in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan. It will be constructed with the help of its Filipino partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp, founded by Negros Occidental Representative Alfredo “Albee” Benitez.

Duterte, on Monday, made it appear he did not know about Galaxy Entertainment’s plan.

“What? Mga casino? Who owns the casino?” he had said.

Walang plano diyan casino-casino. Tama na ‘yun kasi sobra na,” he had also said. (There are no plans there for casinos. There are too many.)

Far from allowing casinos to be built on the island, the President said he would “give” Boracay to farmers and that he plans to put the entire island under the land reform program.

Boracay’s closure, upon Duterte’s orders, begins on April 26 and may last for a “maximum” of 6 months. (READ: CHEAT SHEET: What to expect from Boracay closure) – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.