South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes, chair of the recently concluded 2nd BIMP-EAGA Chief of Ministers, Governors and Heads of Local Government Forum here, said Malaysian officials from Sarawak will initiate talks for Ekran Berhad to resume its casino operations in the Island Garden City of Samal.
“There’s no time frame to reach the objective but we hope we can do it as soon as possible,” she said.
The Malaysian delegation, headed by Minister of Industrial Development Datuk Ewon Ebin, vowed to constantly keep in touch on the development regarding efforts to urge Ekran Berhad to reopen its casino venture.
Ebin vowed the “full assistance and cooperation” of Malaysia to accelerate development initiatives in the sub-regional economic grouping. Pushing for the continuation of the venture, IGACOS Mayor Antonio Antalan said the possible reopening of the casino resort would be a welcome development as it would boost economic activities and generate employment for the constituents. With the closure of the Samal Casino Resort in 2000, the locality is reportedly losing P12 million in real estate taxes annually.
The resort, developed at a cost of more than $250 million in the early 1990s, was valued at P2 billion before it was shut down due to the Asian financial crisis.
In 2001, it was reported that Ekran Berhad was selling the facility at half the price of its estimated value. Long-term lease was another option offered by Ekran Berhad to investors.
Samal Casino Resort is located in Samal's Kaputian district where Davao Gulf's best beach resorts are located.
The resort's total land area is 250 hectares but only 18 hectares have been developed.
The original plan by Malaysian investors was to develop an economic zone on the site which used to be a coconut plantation.
The resort started operating as a hotel and casino in late 1997 with 300 rooms and a ballroom that could accommodate 3,000 people.
About 300 locals lost their jobs when the Malaysians pulled out of Samal Island.
The resort is about 30 minutes by boat from Sta. Ana wharf, Davao City, Mindanao’s premier economic hub.
Ekran Berhad is a highly diversified Malaysian conglomerate listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. The company's biggest project was Bakun Dam in Sarawak which it reportedly failed to complete, but was paid a hefty sum for its expenses by the Malaysian government.
Samal Casino Resort was Ekran Berhad's contribution to the East ASEAN Growth Area concept promoted by private business chambers in the region during the early 1990s.
The growth comprises Brunei Darrussalam, East Indonesia, East Malaysia and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines. (MindaNews)