Antipolo City, August 5, 2010—Militant fisherfolks under Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya sa Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) is willing to join force with the Roman Catholic Church in the crusade against “Las Vegasnization” of the Philippines.
In a statement, Pamalakaya national chair, Fernando Hicap, had appealed to the 117 archbishops and bishops of the CBCP to unite with the fisherfolks and other affected people in Manila Bay in opposing the proposed reclamation of a part of Manila bay to become a casino.
“We ask our archbishops and bishops to join the Manila Bay coastal people in their legit and just struggle against evil forces who want to make this nation the gambling capital of Asia to the detriment of coastal people and the bay environment,” stated Hicap.
The Pamalakaya leader said his group is planning to seek a dialogue with CBCP anytime to discuss the devastating impact of the project to small fisherfolk and urban poor and its destructive effect to the already fragile Manila Bay environment.
“We will move heaven and earth to put up a strong opposition against this largest gambling project clinched during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and passed on to the new administration of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III,” vowed Hicap.
Few days ago, Enrique Razon Jr.’s Bloombury Investments Holdings Inc. had announced the groundbreaking ceremonies for the construction of Solaire, an integrated resort complex that includes a five-star, 500-room hotel on a 165,000-square-meter land.
Enrique Razon Jr. is the same Razon who owns Manila-based global port giant International Container Terminal Services Inc.
Bloombury, on its press statements, had said that aside from catapulting the Philippines into becoming a key player in the tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries, the project will make Filipinos proud for having a world class leisure hub that will showcase the best that the country can offer.
Bloombury even boasted that their entertainment city “will rival leisure hubs in the region such as those in Macau, Malaysia and Singapore.”
The Bloombury complex is expected to open by the third quarter of 2012 and its total investment in the long term is expected to reach $ 1 billion (Php.45.240 billion).
Based on reports, the project is Razon’s first venture into the lucrative gaming industry.
With the opening of the entertainment city, it is expected to attract local and foreign visitors while giving 2,500 Filipinos a job. In addition to this, Razon’s entertainment city is also expected to boost the boost the country’s ancillary service sectors.
Aside from Bloombury, other companies which were granted licenses by the government are the Travellers International Hotel Group, Inc.; the partnership between the Andrew L. Tan-led Alliance Global, Inc. and casino-resort operator Genting Hong Kong Ltd.; SM Investments Corp.; and the Universal Entertainment Corp. (formerly Azure Corp.), which makes gaming machines and also a co-investor in the Wynn chain of casino hotels in Las Vegas and Macau.
Illegal and detrimental to fisherfolk’s economy
Pamalakaya said that the plans of reclaiming a part of Manila bay is illegal, pursuant to a 2008 ruling by the Philippine Supreme Court (SC).
“This is ridiculous, very, very ridiculous. Please allow us to inform the bishops that the Supreme Court ruling is clear: Malacanang should rehabilitate Manila Bay and it is barred from transforming the bay into gambling capital of Asia,” said Hicap.
On that decision the SC told the national government and the other concerned government agencies to restore Manila Bay back to its historic and proud past.
“Besides, it is detrimental to the health of the bay, not to mention to the fishermen’s income,” Hicap said.
Hicap explains, the construction of Manila Bay casino similar to first-rate casinos in Las Vegas and Macau will trigger the displacement of three million coastal people in Metro Manila and Cavite who are dependent to fishing as thier principal source of livelihood.
“And any move to transform or convert Manila Bay for other purposes like the $15-billion casino project will have a killing impact on the livelihood of small fishermen, aside from the fact that they would be demolished from their communities, once construction of support structures and establishments begins,” Hicap furthered.
Last week, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) president and COO Rafael Butch Francisco had announced that the construction of the Bay Shore Entertainment City is expected to start in the latter part of the year.
The Pagcor chief the construction is expected to start in the third quarter at an estimated cost of $400 million for the first phase. According to the state-run gambling corporation, the complex will include two five-star luxury hotel towers of over 1,000 rooms within a world-class entertainment and convention facility.
The militant group further said that the construction of Manila Bay casino will trigger reclamation of other coastal shores along Manila Bay that will result to eviction of fishing communities and coastal villagers along the bay.
“From 1992 to 1995, the demolitions of coastal shanties became an everyday ordeal in Pasay Reclamation area. Houses were uprooted on almost day-to-day basis. Small and big time bribery to divide the communities were conducted to facilitate the demolition of homes as if the words and orders of Malacañang were the words of God in this country,” Hicap said.
Pamalakaya said 3,500 small fisherfolk and their families in Pasay Reclamation Area, and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Ramos to pave way for the construction of the proposed casino that would make the Philippines the Las Vegas of Asia.
“Also at stake here is the marine environment, the livelihood of three million people in Manila Bay and the national interest of 92 million Filipinos. Sad to say, President Arroyo sacrificed these stakes to make more money and make his crony the happiest and the luckiest guy on earth,” Hicap further said.
Manila Bay Master Development Plan
On the other hand, Hicap told CBPCNews, that the setting up of casino and resorts, including SM’s Mall of Asia was all in the master plan of the government known as Manila Bay Master Development Plan that officially started during the time of President Ramos and projected to end between 2020 and 2025.
“Sources said the Razon’s entry into the Pagcor project came after his exit from the power transmission business. Last month, Henry Sy Jr.’s OneTaipan Holdings, Inc. bought Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. from Razon’s group for $350 million,” he said.
Moreover, he also stated that the irrevocable desire of President Aquino and Razon to convert Manila Bay into an international gateway for big time gambling addicts both international and domestic is not only blasphemous, but also detestable and highly revolting.
“This government is sacrificing the future of Manila Bay fishers at the altar of corporate interest and gambling addiction of the international and domestic elites. And we believe, that the Roman Catholic bishops are politically and morally obliged to confront this gambling project of the ruling Mafia in Malacanang. That is one their callings as far as the Christian faith and the people’s collective interest are concerned,” the Pamalakaya official said. (CBCPNews.com)