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Boracay casino not my idea—DOF chief

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“NOT my call.”

Thus said Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III when asked if he was behind President Duterte’s shift in policy to allow casinos on Boracay Island, supposedly to raise more government revenues.

“Although our revenues are up, so are our expenditures to the extent that our fiscal deficit is still very elevated,” Dominguez told the BusinessMirror in a Viber message.

Data from the Bureau of the Treasury showed government actually underspent in the first half of the year at just P2.21 trillion, or 9.6 percent below the P2.44-trillion cap for the period. Revenues rose to P1.49 trillion, exceeding the P1.42-trillion target for the period, thus resulting in a fiscal deficit of some P716 billion in the first six months to June. This was 30 percent lower than the P1.02-trillion cap for the period.

Also, the DOF reported the tax effort increased over half a percentage point to 14.74 percent in the first half of the year, hewing closely to the 14.86 percent recorded in the same period in 2019, prior to the pandemic. (See, “Tax effort improves in H1 despite pandemic,” August 30, 2021, in the BusinessMirror.)

In a public briefing on August 26, Duterte said he has “encourage[d] the opening of a gamble house in Boracay for tourists,” to raise funds for government operations. “Forgive me for the contradiction. We don’t have any money now, so I will get it from wherever I can. If it’s from gaming, then so be it.”

‘Sustainability is non-negotiable’

The announcement has rattled Boracay residents and business owners, especially after they suffered through the island’s six-month closure and government rehabilitation that has yet to be completed. (See, “BIATF officials seem blindsided by Duterte announcement allowing casinos in Boracay,” in the BusinessMirror, August 30, 2021.)

An official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources vowed, however, that gains made by Boracay during its rehabilitation will remain intact. Asked if the efforts of the former Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) to clean up the island and keep it family-friendly were wasted, Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny D. Antiporda said, “Hindi naman! Non-negotiable ‘yung environmental sustainability ng Boracay [Not at all. The environmental sustainability of Boracay is non-negotiable].”

Defending Duterte’s stance to allow casinos on the island, Antiporda averred, “We need to accept the sad truth that we need to move heaven and earth to survive in this pandemic.”

He added, “We still need to check” if casinos operating before Boracay’s closure will also be allowed to reopen, or just new ones such as the $500-million development of Leisure and Resorts World Corp.-Galaxy Entertainment of Macau. The BIATF’s term expired in May 2021.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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