LARGELY unreported and known only to a few people privy to the deal, a casino and hotel would now be operating in the world-class Boracay beach resort had not a rising Filipino bishop stood in the way.

In early 2001, recently elected President Joseph Estrada nearly approved a plan by foreign and local investors to turn a well-known hotel into a full-scale casino facility in that island paradise.

But a Catholic bishop, Gabriel Reyes, and a native of Kalibo, Aklan, where Boracay, a village of Mali town, is located, raised a howl and, with the backing of the influential Catholic hierarchy, the plan was scuttled, and was never brought up again.

Incidentally, now Antipolo (Rizal) Bishop Gabby Reyes, was a protégé of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, an implacable opponent of casino gambling in Boracay.

The cardinal was also a native of Aklan, born in New Washington town.

Today, government-run casinos proliferate in the Philippines.

A casino in Manila landed in the news when a high government official, Virginia Torres, who moves in President Benigno Aquino’s inner circle, was caught playing a slot machine in its facility.

Under pressure, Torres resigned as chief of the Land Transportation Office.

The leading casino is Resorts World Manila, owned by the Malaysian giant Gentling Group, which is also operating the top-grossing Resorts World New York City, located at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

A plan to authorize up to seven full-scale casinos around New York is being opposed by the popular New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who is also the president of the State Catholic Conference.

The Dolan-led state bishops warned of “social problems” associated but they stopped short of telling New Yorkers how to vote on Nov. 5.

In a seven-paragraph statement published in the Oct. 5, 2013 issue of The Tablet, the Roman Catholic bishops said in part:

“On Nov. 5, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to decide an important matter affecting our communities. A statewide referendum of the people will be the final say on whether or not to amend the state’s Constitution to authorize casino gambling.

“Of the problem gamblers studied in a report 62 percent gambled until their last dollar was gone...furthermore, it does seem apparent that with all of the gambling options already available here, there is only so much revenue to be gained.”

Maybe the bishops should have been more forthcoming.

Maybe they need to enlist the services of Bishop Reyes to rally the troops against the referendum.

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