Lawmaker backs Manila Bay casino

Palawan Representative Antonio Alvarez, chairman of the House committee on trade and industry, is supporting the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corporation’s (Pagcor) establishment of a gambling complex near the Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard, saying this would catch a portion of China’s increasing spending on gambling and spice up the economy.

„If we are losing so much to China in the balance of trade, then we could probably get back part of it on gaming tables,“ said Alvarez.

Philippines and China are two persistent claimants of the disputed Spratly Islands, which is believed to be an abundant source of oil and natural gas.

The building of Pagcor’s USD 15 billion worth Las Vegas-style entertainment complex by Manila Bay was opposed by the Catholic Church last year.

Alvarez, however, said this „would put the country in a position to catch a portion of China’s increasing spending on gambling.“

He added that due to China’s fast growing affluence, its 1.3 billion people are spending an estimated USD 70 billion in gaming bets a year.

„This money would either go to Macau — a Chinese territory whose gambling revenues rose by 47 percent increase to USD 10.34 billion last year or we could have a piece of the action,“ he said.

Alvarez said building an entertainment complex on the vacant reclaimed lot is better than „allowing grass to grow on it.“

„We also need jobs. We have 430,000 new college graduates a year but not all can be absorbed by the local economy,“ he said.

Building an „entertainment city,“ Alvarez said, „would also prevent Filipinos from going to Macau and for them to just spend their money here.“

He noted that last year alone, 27 million tourists were lured by fancy hotels and gaming resorts, some owned by Las Vegas casinos, on the former Portuguese colony which is just 70 minutes by air from Manila.

„We can capitalize on this proximity. If some of these tourists will proceed to the proposed Pagcor city, then that would be good for our tourism industry. We can tell them that they can later proceed to Boracay and other beach resorts the kind of which mainland China doesn’t have,“ he said.

Alvarez said „Disneyland-like“ facilities and casinos that cater to foreigners are far better investments than „mining companies that take out too much of our resources but leave behind so much environmental damage.“

„For as long as no public funds, no appropriated amount will be used for the project, and foreign capital will join, then I think in this land where not enough foreign domestic investment is coming, that project is welcome,“ he said.