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Pagcor casinos must be privatized

THIS Saturday, Sept. 19, the 365 Club, perhaps the only one of its kind in Asia and the world, without any charter, constitution, by-laws, and roster of officials, will mark 43 years in existence.

This club, an avenue for free speech, whose regulars come for breakfast or a cup of coffee or tea, came into being on the morning of the Martial Law declaration (midnight of Sept. 21, 1972) by the late Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut, columnist Doroy Valencia, businessman Pat Dayrit, former BIR official Joe Viterbo, Yabut assistant Biding Sibug and myself.

It’s regulars are a composite group of journalists, politicians, former and incumbent government officials, professionals, businessmen and plain hangers-on who want to share their political and economic views. And of course, the latest gossip in town.

It’s so unique and one of its kind where it’s always “KKB,” unless somebody is generous enough to pick up the tab. One time, the Wall Street Journal featured it.

Every anniversary breakfast has always been through the courtesy of Hotel Intercontinental, whose management has tolerated our noise all these years. Even during the Marcos Martial Law days, it became the venue of free speech. And nobody was picked up by the military.

When Ka Doroy Valencia, who proclaimed himself chairman when it was founded, died, and everybody else among the founders passed away, I proclaimed myself as chairman, as the only living founder, and nobody dared to question it.

I have since become its Chairman Emeritus, and businessman-lawyer Boy Reyno, a regular, was voted as chairman.

We have invited Vice President Jojo Binay, who has always supported us since Makati City is his domain, to grace the occasion on Saturday. He told me he would try to squeeze it in his busy schedule.

Many of our regulars have since passed away. We honor them. But the 365 Club will continue to be an avenue of free speech and freedom of the press.

* * *

Aseana City, the site of the country’s gaming and entertainment/ tourism industry, is in full swing with billionaire Ricky Razon’s Bloombery’s Solaire in full operation and with the entry of City of Dreams.

Soon, Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, in partnership with Tonyboy Cojuangco, will also put up Tiger Resorts to complement Solaire and City of Dreams.

Actually, four licenses were granted by the past management of Pagcor, with $1-billion investment each. With Resorts World in full operation in front of Naia Terminal 3, our homegrown gaming and tourism industry can give Macau and even Las Vegas have a run for their money. Statistics show that Macau’s gaming and tourism industries are already falling short of expectation and the high-rollers of Asia are now coming to billionaire Ricky Razon’s Solaire and the City of Dreams in the hope of getting a slice of the $100-billion gaming pie.

I’m on record as a strong believer in gaming and tourism. This is the future. I have supported Pagcor’s initiative from Day One.

Now with the development of Aseana City almost in full swing, government must now consider the full privatization of Pagcor. It seems irregular and even anomalous that Pagcor, with its 35 gambling casinos, would be in competition with private enterprises. Nowhere in the world can government be in business. I have long advocated this.

Pagcor must remain the regulator of gaming like what’s happening with the Nevada Gaming Commission. Pagcor cannot continue to compete with private enterprise.

The reason why presidents, including incumbent President Aquino, cannot afford to have Pagcor remain simply as as regulator of gaming is that Malacañang gets a big slice of the revenues of Pagcor as the President’s “social fund.” Is this some sort of pork barrel? Frankly, I believe this is even against the law and should be stopped.

Perhaps the next President should consider this.

* * *

If there were an award for being the most incompetent, inept and utterly insensitive to the public among the members of the Aquino cabinet and government agencies, I would nominate Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya, and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman.

Just why President Aquino still keeps them in office, despite all the complaints by the public, is perplexing.

Abaya has mismanaged the public transport system. Soliman has been criminally neglectful in providing relief and assistance to the victims of Typhoon “Yolanda” and other disasters, natural or otherwise.

Even the Commission on Audit has come out with a report of the DSWD’s failure to distribute cash donations and food packs to Yolanda survivors.

It becomes worse in the case of Soliman with a CoA report of her failure to immediately distribute cash donations and food packs to Yolanda survivors. Santa Banana, how can Soliman explain CoA’s findings that P382 million in local and foreign donations for Yolanda survivors, representing a third of the P1.15 billion that the Department of Social Welfare and Development has received, have remained in the department’s bank account?

And to think that many of Yolanda’s survivors are still living in tents and bunkhouses.

For President Aquino, his Cabinet members cannot do any wrong. He is loyal to them. He should have fired them a long time ago, but he continues to stand by them.

* * *

The Radio Mindanao Network, with its nationwide reach, has found in it survey that Vice President Jojo Binay is now ahead of Senator Grace Poe with President Aquino’s anointed, Mar Roxas, a poor third.

I can believe it. Binay has been busy touring the country presenting his program of government if elected President in 2016.

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