Catholic bishop condemns lifting of ban on casinos on Philippines’ top holiday island

The presidential palace announced over the weekend the lifting of a moratorium on casino operations in the country’s top holiday island

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the Episcopal Commission on the Laity of the Philippine Catholic bishops’ conference, condemned the government’s decision to lift the ban on the operation of casinos on the resort island of Boracay.

“We know that gambling will only bring corruption, kidnappings, killings, and it destroys the family and the life of people,” said Bishop Pabillo who is also apostolic vicar of Taytay in Palawan province.

“Is money running our lives, all our principles?” said the prelate. “Do we set aside our words and our goodness because we need money?” he said in an interview over Radio Veritas 846.

The presidential palace announced over the weekend that President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted a moratorium on casino operations in the country’s top holiday island to generate taxes for its COVID-19 pandemic response.

Duterte has had a longstanding opposition to gambling, halting the construction of new casinos in the Philippines, one of Asia’s fastest-growing gambling markets before the pandemic.

“The president has given his go signal allowing the operation of a casino in Boracay,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

He did not say if the lifting of the moratorium would be temporary or permanent.

Strict and lengthy coronavirus lockdowns last year battered the Philippine economy and hit tax revenues.

No casinos currently operate in the 10-square-kilometer Boracay island, famed for its powdery white sands, turquoise waters and lively night life.

Bishop Pabillo said the country should have not been led by people whose words “are not rooted in the Word of God.”

A top view of the holiday island of Boracay. (Reuters file photo)

The move to allow the operation of casinos augurs well for provisional casino license holders like the Philippines’ Alliance Global Group Inc, and the partnership of Leisure & Resorts World Corp and Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group.

In 2018, Duterte rejected Galaxy’s plan to build a US$500 million integrated casino resort in Boracay.

Alliance Global will proceed with its casino project in Boracay where it has several hotels and a golf course, company chairman Andrew Tan said in a statement on Saturday.

“We are very hopeful that the tourism industry in this island will recover fast after the pandemic.”

Galaxy can start its operations focusing on foreign gamblers, Alfredo Lim, president of the gaming regulator, told Reuters.

Galaxy and Leisure & Resorts World did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside office hours on Saturday. – with a report from Reuters

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