The unregulated invasion of tourists made Boracay an endangered species. The bars and massage parlors fronting the beaches gave us a lot of discomfort. Boracay was no longer the serene paradise that it used to be. It was turning out to be a haven for “Miami Vice,” a TV series which ran in the ‘70s. Thus, we all agreed with the President to temporarily close Boracay and halt the establishment of casinos.
Gambling is a traditionally bad activity. Studies show its relationship with partner- violence, personality disorders, and family problems. The effects of gambling account for 25.33% of divorce and domestic violence in San Francisco. Twenty percent (20%) of child neglect cases in Sta. Clara, California take its roots from pathological gambling (Fong, et. al. 2010). Gambling costs in Victoria, Australia from 2014-2015 were estimated at $2.2 billion with the highest toll of $1.6 billion on emotional and psychological distress, including suicides. The other costs were related to financial losses, bankruptcy, loss of productivity, alcohol abuse and crime. Casinos required government regulations which totaled $600 million (Browne, et. al. 2017).
So here comes the President begging forgiveness for allowing the establishment of casinos in Boracay. He does this in the guise of raising revenues. Certainly, government needs revenues to finance vaccine procurement, and take care of our health workers. In the words of the President, “Ngayon po wala tayong pera. Kung saan man tayo makakuha ng pera, kukunin ko. Kung diyan sa gambling, so be it. (We not have money and wherever we may get money, including gambling, I will take it.)
But why do these words elicit much resistance? It does not help to see pictures of the President welcoming investors from Macau such as Lui Che Woo, Chairman of Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited. The Philippines is a haven for Chinese gambling investors because all forms of gambling are banned in China. The Philippine government imposes the lowest franchise tax in the region for gambling establishments—5% of gross receipts compared to 25% in Malaysia, 35% in Vietnam and Macau. Plus, if casinos were located in economic zones, they are given a hosts of incentive—income tax holiday for a certain period, tax and duty free importation, and VAT zero-rating for their locally made-purchases. We must not also forget that under the CREATE law, the President can develop a package of incentives that is suited for an investor. How lucky can gambling investors be?
We must continuously question ourselves on whether gambling is a form of investment that we must encourage. Boracay residents, environmentalists and business owners have raised strong objections over the establishment of casinos. They would totally change the Boracay landscape and bring with them psycho-social and environmental problems. These problems will definitely surpass the revenues which the casinos may bring.
The taxes which government raised from casinos totaled P7.2 billion in 2018 (NTRC). This amount does not appear significant relative to the loss entailed in corruption. From a one-time purchase of PPEs alone, government would have been richer by One billion. Businesss operators in Boracay estimated that they generated P60 billion just from tourism receipts .
I must be blind but I cannot see the benefits from gambling. It is an activity that we should discourage instead of incentivize—unless our values have become warped and distorted!
Former Governor Art Defensor of Iloilo, Province and Mayor Ronilo Caspe of Cabatuan, Iloilo, please accept my apology for listing your names erroneously in my column last week.