By Mar T. Supnad
Freeport Area of Bataan — As one of its features to boost tourism here and generate income and employment, the Authority of Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB as created by Republic Act 9728) has mandated to operate its own gambling casinos, online gaming and other tourism-related activities.
This was clarified over the weekend by Bataan Governor Abet S. Garcia, principal author of the law when he was still a congressman, when he met with top government and police officials.
The meeting was attended by, among others, Senior Superintendent Benjamin Silo, Jr., Bataan Police Provincial Office director; AFAB chairman and Administrator Emmanuel Pineda; Chief Inspector Reyson Bagain, CIDG chief; and representatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Labor and Employment, and other agencies and investors.
Under the revised implementing rules and regulations of R.A. 9728, AFAB can “regulate on its own, either directly or through a license to other tourism-related activities, including games, amusements, gambling casinos, horse racing and dog racing, recreational and sports facilities, subject to approval and supervision of PAGCOR, which approval must not be unreasonably witheld.”
“It is very clear under RA 9728 that AFAB can operate online gaming, gambling casinos, etc as this will generate income and employment,” said Garcia.
This issue came after Grand Innovasia Concept Corp (GICC), led by its president Sheryl Tancio Lou Xiaojing, the exclusive Master licensor operating an online gaming inside Bataan Freeport, expressed concern and apprehension over the government raid of the Fontana Leisure Park last Nov. 25, 2016.
AFAB Chairman Pineda stressed that the incident has tremendously affected their locators and future investors and “creating tension, fears, anexiety and uncertainty, not to mention the nightmare our locators are experienced.”
Pineda said that only recently, they also received information about an impending raid by the authorities this December on online gaming operators, saying this is a serious matter that caused apprehension among locators.
But Garcia and Pineda pointed out that nothing is illegal on GICC’s operating of online gaming as this is allowed by the law and legitimate.
Last Friday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II assured that only illegal online gambling operations in the Philippines will be shut down.
Aguirre made the clarification after President Duterte gave the order the immediate shut down of all online gaming in the country.
“Impression ko he was referring to the online operations na talagang nagva-violate ng ating gambling laws, ng ating tax laws, di nagbabayad ng tamang buwis tulad ng situation ni Jack Lam (My impression is that Duterte is referring to only those which are violating the gambling laws, tax laws, and those not properly paying taxes like Jack Lam,” Aguirre told reporters.. (With a report from Jeffrey G. Damicog)