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Cagayan ecozone can operate jai-alai — DoJ

Vol. XXII, No. 182 [ BusinessWorld Online ]

Monday, April 20, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES


THE CAGAYAN Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) has been given the legal basis for reopening jai-alai operations, boosting efforts of the agency for the Northern Luzon enclave to become a gaming hub, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has said.

In a legal opinion, Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez affirmed an earlier ruling of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel that CEZA has the authority "to establish, manage and operate" betting stations in the economic zone.

He noted this was pointed out in Republic Act 7922, the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Act of 1995. The law provides that CEZA can "operate on its own, either directly or through subsidiary entity, including games, amusements, recreational and sports facilities such as horse racing, dog racing, gambling casinos, golf course, and others."

CEZA administrator Jose Mari Ponce had sought the opinion after the agency announced that it is aiming to become the country’s gaming center. Besides jai-alai, CEZA is also planning to open dog and horse racing operations.

The economic zone already earns P20 million annually through proxy-voting games.

Jai-alai was banned in the country in 1986 following an alleged game-fixing scandal. Originally from Spain, the game involves a handball played with a long curved basket strapped to the wrist called cesta.

Jai-alai is within the category of a "game" which is defined as to play for a stake or for amusement, Mr. Gonzalez said.

Meanwhile, he said CEZA’s charter allows it to be a self-sustaining industrial, commercial, financial, investment, and tourism/recreational center.

"While administrative bodies derive their power from the laws of their recreation and that any power sought to be exercised must be found within the four corners of the statute under which the agency proceeds, it has been held that when authority is given by statute to accomplish a stated governmental purpose, there is also given, by implication, authority to do everything necessary to accomplish the purpose that is not a violation of the law or of public policy," he said. — IPP

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