The proposed construction of a $500-million integrated resort on Boracay could damage the quality of the sand on the island, a top urban planner told local media.
According to Felino Palafox, a leading Philippine architect and urban planner, developers should not be allowed to build on the island’s beaches as this would have a negative environmental impact. Mr. Palafox spoke with local news channel ANC on Saturday.
Last week, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. awarded a provisional license to Macau-based casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group and its Philippine partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp. to build and operate a $500-million casino resort on Boracay.
Construction on the complex is set to begin in 2019 and to be completed over the next three years. Leisure and Resorts has recently secured a 23-hectare site on Boracay where its property will be built.
While the resort is expected to bring wealthy high roller players from the Asia-Pacific region and to thus boost the island’s already booming tourism sector, the proposal was not received very well by a number of parties, including tourism stakeholders and environmental groups.
During his recent interview, Mr. Palafox said that Galaxy’s project might be involving the “wrong land use at the wrong place at the wrong time”.
The locally established Boracay Foundation has also joined the casino resort debate recently, arguing that the island is well-known among tourists for its white sand beaches, water attraction, and bright nightlife scene, and these are enough to support and grow its tourism industry. The environmental group has added that the island does not need to promote itself as a gambling destination and that a casino would only harm its social environment.
News about the approval of the casino resort plan emerged as Boracay became the subject of heavy criticism from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Imminent Closure of the Island
President Duterte has been firing at the way the major tourism hub’s environmental issues have been handled since last month. The Philippines’ top official called the island a “cesspool” due to its lack of a properly functioning sewerage system and threatened to blow up every structure built on the island without the necessary permission.
After probing the island’s environmental situation, a specially assembled unit has recently recommended its closure for a period of between six months and a year, during which an environmental cleanup would be carried out.
It was confirmed earlier this week that the island would be closed for tourism for six months. In a letter to President Duterte, three government agencies recommended that the island be shuttered starting April 26. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Tourism wrote in their joint letter that the proposed date would prevent Labor Day parties on the island on May 1. However, the island would still be able to welcome tourists that have long planned and made the necessary arrangements to spend the Holy Week break there.
The final decision is in the hands of President Duterte and it is yet to be seen whether he would approve the proposal of the three departments or would pick another date for the island’s imminent closure.
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