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Pagcor chiefs ‘caught in crossfire’

/ 09:06 PM March 01, 2012

“It was a boardroom fight between Steve Wynn, owner of the Wynn gambling casinos, and his business partner, Japanese Kazuo Okada. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chief Cristino Naguiat Jr. and his predecessor, Ephraim Genuino, were just caught in the crossfire.” This was what Rep. Amado Bagatsing, chair of the House committee on games and amusement, which is investigating the alleged “bribery” of Naguiat and Genuino, told the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond hotel last Monday. The other guests at the Kapihan were Jane Punongbayan of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and Dr.  Manuel “Chuck” Chuachiaco, medical director of the Philippine Heart Center.

“Wynn was afraid of the competition that our Entertainment City will give to his Macau Resorts. Entertainment City promises to be more attractive to high rollers and tourists than Macau or Hong Kong. After gambling in Macau or Hong Kong, where can you go? Nowhere,” Bagatsing said.

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He continued, speaking like a tour guide: “But in the Philippines, there are many places to go to: beaches, surfing or diving, watch giant whale sharks, go to Bohol to look at the strange phenomenon [called] the Chocolate Hills, and sample the superb resorts there. You can go to Palawan and take a boat to one of the seven wonders of the world, the Underground River. You can bask on white-sand beaches under the sun on a lonely island all by yourself and your loved one. You can go back through time and see the old Spanish cities that are Vigan or Intramuros. Gaming is just the door to tourism.

“Because of this fear by Wynn of the competition that Entertainment City will pose to his Wynn Macau, his biggest casino operation, he forbade all his directors [from investing] in casinos in the Philippines. But Okada has already committed to put up a casino-resort in Entertainment City, and when Okada broke ground last January for his hotel-casino, the boardroom battle broke out into the open.

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“Because of their rivalry, Okada filed a case against Wynn in the United States for donating $130,000 to Macau University. Wynn returned the compliment by filing his own suit against Okada, also in the US, for allegedly ‘bribing’ Genuino and Naguiat by giving them free accommodations in suites costing $6,000 a night. Vested interests here lusting for the position of Pagcor chief spread that fight here with emphasis on the free hotel suites for Genuino and Naguiat that they termed as ‘bribery.’”

Bagatsing explained that giving free room accommodations to casino operators in other hotel-casinos is “standard operating procedure” in the industry.

“Note that Genuino and Naguiat were Okada’s guests in Macau years ago,” the lawmaker said. “Why did the alleged bribery surface only now? It was a last-ditch effort by Wynn to stop Okada from going through with his hotel-casino at Entertainment City.”

Our House of Representatives has passed a resolution banning Wynn from investing in the Philippines.

* * *

Phivolcs’ Jane Punongbayan, meanwhile, warned that active faults run from Bulacan, through Metro Manila, to Laguna, and that an earthquake can occur there any time.

“Buildings and houses near these faults are especially in danger,” she warned. “Houses and buildings that sit astride the fault are especially vulnerable. When the two sides of the fault move in different directions, then your building or house would be ripped apart.”

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“But if your house is at least five meters from the fault, then you will be all right,” she said.

According to Ms Punongbayan, communities in Blue Ridge (Quezon City) are in greatest danger. The ridge itself is the fault. The ridge rose when two tectonic plates collided and pushed one over the other. That is one way mountains are made.

“What can you do if your house happens to be beside a fault?” she was asked.

Her reply: “Strengthen your house. Better yet, move to a better location.”

* * *

For his part, Chuck Chuachiaco warned about heart ailments that can be life-threatening: high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and other diseases of the circulatory system.

These can result in heart attacks or strokes. These are very sneaky diseases and can strike any time, often when you least expect it.

“What can one do to avoid heart attacks or strokes?” the doctor was asked.

“Live a healthy lifestyle,” he replied. “Have a healthy diet. Avoid fatty foods, stop smoking or drinking, exercise regularly and shed excess weight. Have your blood pressure checked regularly.”

Smoking not only makes you susceptible to lung cancer and emphysema but also constricts your coronary arteries. When a blood or fat clot blocks a constricted coronary artery, you have a heart attack. If the clot is in the brain, you have a stroke. Both can be fatal, or at least debilitating. You can be paralyzed; you may not be able to speak clearly; you can be a human vegetable.

Drinking not only makes you susceptible to liver diseases, which can be fatal, but also raises your blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

The doctor brought with him to the Kapihan a small team of doctors and nurses to take the blood pressure of the journalists who have a reputation for being inveterate smokers, drinkers—and womanizers.

He left a happy parting shot: “Sex is good for the heart. The more often, the better.”

This drew a round of applause from the audience. “But,” he continued, “do it only with your wife. Promiscuity is bad for the heart because of the feelings of guilt that lurk at the back of the minds of ‘sinners.’”

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TAGS: blue ridge, casinos, crostino naguiat jr., diseases, earthquakes, ephraim genuine, featured column, gaming, health, heart ailment, kazuo okada, Pagcor, steve wynn
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