Nancy Binay to PAGCOR: Take back provisional permit for Boracay casino

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 17) — The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) should retract its provisional license for a casino in Boracay, Senate Tourism Committee Chair Nancy Binay said on Tuesday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Binay noted President Rodrigo Duterte's statement on April 9 that there were no plans for a casino. Spokesperson Harry Roque later added the proposal was not authorized by the President.

"I guess it's high time for PAGCOR to do their part, para matapos na ang (talk) [to end any talk]. It's creating the impression (there's) something fishy with that contract," said Binay.

"Para wala na talaga, hindi na matamaan si Presidente, bawiin nalang nila [They should take it back, to stop the gossip and to spare the President]," she added.

In late March, PAGCOR issued a provisional license to Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group and local partner Leisure & Resorts World Corporation to open an "integrated resort" on the island destination. The controversial proposal sparked concern as it came amid a plan to shut down Boracay for half a year. The closure begins on April 26.

However, Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre on Monday said the construction of the casino was off and Galaxy was "looking for another venue." He added any transfer would require a new provisional license.

"When they find (one), they just have to go through the process of accreditation and securing a new PAGCOR provisional authority," said Alegre. "They have to repeat the whole process."

Related: Macau casino operator, local gaming firm to build 'integrated resort' on Boracay

While the closure of Boracay is intended for clean-up and rehabilitation, local businessmen and residents have raised concerns about their source of income for the next six months.

While the closure is intended for a clean-up and rehabilitation, local businessmen and residents have raised concern about their loss of income for the next six months.

READ: Rebuilding Boracay: Timeline, what to expect

Binay, who initially supported rehabilitation in phases, stressed the importance of a comprehensive plan for the closure.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte said on April 9 that he had no master plan for the island. He also contemplated setting the island up for agrarian reform.

"Wala akong master plan diyan, linisin ko muna iyan kasi agricultural iyan," he said. "I-land reform ko lahat iyan then I'll give it to the farmers."

[Translation: I have no master plan, I'll clean it first because it's agricultural land. I'll implement land reform then I'll give it to the farmers.]

Binay wants island inventory

Binay also filed Senate Resolution 689, which proposed the upper house look into the need to create an inventory of island destinations in the Philippines.

After the shutdown of Boracay was confirmed three weeks before April 26, the Tourism Department has been encouraging tourists to redirect their flights to alternative destinations.

Binay pointed out that some tourists plan their vacations about a year ahead of time, and last-minute announcements might discourage them from returning.

She believes the country was not yet ready to absorb additional tourists, and she filed the resolution to look into the islands' capabilities of housing these guests.

"Na-devolve din ang tourism master plan sa mga [Our tourism master plan has devolved to] (local government units)...  They're fourth, fifth class municipalities," she said. "I don't think they'll have the budget to pay for a master plan. Maganda tingnan [It's good to see] where the national government can help."

Apart from Boracay, popular surfing destination Siargao was also thrust under the spotlight when journalist Karen Davila posted about the absence of first aid and life guards. The surfing spot for beginners was temporarily closed after her post went viral.

The Environment Department earlier served notices of violation to 49 establishments on the island.

Watch the full interview with Binay here.

This story was updated to include Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre's announcement on the proposed casino.

CNN Philippines Senior Digital Producer Lara Tan contributed to this story.