Senators oppose 2-mth shutdown of Boracay
BORACAY, Aklan: The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has vowed to file charges
against local officials to be found responsible for Boracay Island’s “organized chaos” within six months.
“Within the six-month timeframe given by the President, we will make everything possible to save Boracay and put those responsible to face sanction,” said DILG officer in charge Eduardo Año told reporters Thursday night.
The DILG has formed a task force that will conduct an investigation and pinpoint local officials responsible for the environmental mess in the island, which had been voted as one of the best islands in the world.
The investigation will cover construction activities done on the island since 2001.
Among the violations found by the DILG were lack of permits and environmental compliance certificates, and disregard for the 30-meter shoreline easement.
Asked how many establishments were found to have violated the law, Año said the DILG was investigating 800 establishments.
“It seems that there was really no order. We can call it organized chaos and we are determined to fix it,” Año added.
DILG Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs Epimaco Densing 3rd will head the 12-member Boracay Investigating Team (BIT), with Senior Executive Assistant Jerry Loresco of the Office of the Undersecretary for Peace and Order, Public Safety and Policy and Programs as vice chairman.
Senators reject proposed two-month closure
While agreeing to the need to rehabilitate Boracay, some senators opposed the proposal of the DILG to shut down the world-renowned resort for six months because such move would displace thousands of workers on the island.
On Friday, Sen. Cynthia Villar, head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, led a public hearing in Boracay to tackle the island’s environmental woes.
Villar said a temporary closure would punish establishment owners and residents complying with the law. Only those not complying with laws and causing the degradation of Boracay should be shut down, she said.
“I am okay to close down those establishments that are not complying with the law but closing the entire island will also punish those who are complying,” Villar said.
The DILG is proposing that a state of calamity be declared in Boracay for six months, including a two-month commercial shutdown, to speed up rehabilitation and clean-up efforts.
Sen. Joel Villanueva is also not in favor of the proposal, saying it will affect the livelihood of more than 17,000 workers and those in the informal sector.
In the Senate hearing on Friday, Villanueva said that while he acknowledged the serious environmental problem faced by the island, shutting it down was not a solution.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, in a separate statement, called on the government to ensure that employment assistance would be provided to workers who would be affected should the planned closure of Boracay businesses push through.
“While we fully support the immediate rehabilitation of Boracay, we can’t turn a blind eye to the possible displacement of thousands of workers. Libu-libong pamilya ang maaapektuhan nito,” Angara said.
Labor groups in Western Visayas have expressed apprehension that almost 19,000 formal and informal workers could lose their jobs with the proposed business closure.
The lawmaker called on stakeholders to take advantage of the Green Jobs Law that provides incentives for the creation of jobs that contribute substantially to the preservation and restoration of the environment and natural resources.
Green jobs, under Republic Act 10771, refer to employment that helps “protect ecosystems and biodiversity, and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution.”
‘Divorced from Tourism dep’t’
When asked by Sen. Nancy Binay if the Department of Tourism (DoT) had solutions to the environmental woes of Boracay, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said the President told her to leave it to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
Teo added that Boracay had been “divorced” from the DoT since 1991, with the management of its tourism industry left to local government units.
“Boracay was divorced from us in 1991, and was given to its local government units, not DoT, and the local government unit now handles the tourism master plan,” Teo said during the inquiry.
Teo said that a Boracay Island Development Authority would be established when the environmental woes are addressed.
Teo said that in 2017 alone, Boracay earned P56 billion from two million tourists.
with LANCE LIBRORANIA AND ROY D.R. NARRA