Cimatu says no to building casino in Boracay

MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday, April 6, offered a flat "no" when asked about his personal opinion regarding plans to build a casino in Boracay Island.

"Dami namang pupuntahan niyan, bakit nilagay pa doon?" Cimatu said during a press briefing Friday. (There are many other places for a casino. Why build it there?)

In March, listed gaming firm Leisure & Resorts World Corporation revealed that it had bought a 23-hectare land in Boracay to build a $500-million integrated resort and casino

But environment officials said they had not yet received any application for permits to build a hotel and casino in Boracay Island, a popular beach destination that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered closed by April 26.

"Maybe once they've submitted an application, we'll be determining whether to accept or deny it based of course on scientific parameters," Environment Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonas Leones said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Putting his personal opinion aside, Cimatu said that there are other factors to consider when it comes to building a casino in Boracay.

"If ever a project like that will be proposed, I will wait for the result of the research that we made by the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) through our Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau to determine the carrying capacity of the island," Cimatu said.

He said the result of the research – to be released on April 24 – will "form the basis" of issuing an environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

"I will wait for the request for our ECC, if ever there will be a project really," the environment secretary added.

On Friday, Cimatu also announced his proposal to expand the inter-agency task force on Boracay to include other agencies such as:

Leones said they're hoping for a resolution of Boracay's major environmental problems after its 6-month closure.

"This effort will not only include rehabilitation, not only filing [of] cases, or investigation of local officials, but [it will also include] cleansing within the ranks.We will check if there are lapses or problems in our issuance of permits," Leones explained.

To know more about Boracay's 6-month closure, read this guide prepared by Rappler: CHEAT SHEET: What to expect from Boracay closureJee Y. Geronimo/Rappler.com