PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte officially placed three villages of the famed Boracay Island under a “state of calamity” and declared the resort destination closed to tourists for a six-month rehabilitation and cleanup starting April 26.
“The temporary closure of the islands as a tourist destination for six months starting 26 April 2018, or until 25 October 2018, is hereby ordered, subject to applicable laws, rules, regulations and jurisprudence,” Proclamation 475 read.
The proclamation put the villages (barangay) of Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak in Boracay under a state of calamity, which would be in effect fect until lifted by Duterte, “notwithstanding the lapse of the six-month closure period.”
The proclamation mandated all concerned government agencies to undertake the measures under a state of calamity as provided in Republic Act 10121.
These include the control of prices of basic goods and commodities in the area and the release of funds, such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, which will be used for relief and rehabilitation.
“All departments and other concerned government agencies are also hereby directed to coordinate with and provide or augment the basic services and facilities of affected local government units, if necessary,” the proclamation read.
The Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies are mandated to implement the closure of the island and maintain peace and order with the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The proclamation also called on all people on the island to “act within the bounds of the law and to comply with the directives provided for the rehabilitation and restoration of the ecological balance of the island, which will be for the benefit of all concerned.”
In a news briefing, acting interior secretary Eduardo Año said there was no exact figure on the budget for the rehabilitation and cleanup of Boracay, but it could be more than P2 billion.
Año said the declaration of a state of calamity took some time because there were conditions that needed to be met.
He added that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council had to be convened before the resolution could be drafted.
Acting social welfare secretary Emmanuel Leyco said the Department of Social Welfare and Development would focus its livelihood programs on developing skills that were not related to tourism.
“Tourism will not be around for the next six months so we will devise livelihood programs that will not necessarily anchor its programs in tourism activities in Boracay,” he said.
Leyco said there were 19,000 registered workers and 17,000 informal workers in Boracay, and vowed that the livelihood programs would target both groups.
Leyco also said that some workers could use their skills in other jobs, citing hotel staff who might find employment in business process outsourcing companies.
Año supported Leyco’s plans but warned that while this could encourage the establishment of other businesses, others could close shop, “especially those that would be found to have violated laws.”
He added: “If the island can only have 30,000 tourists per day then we should only have 30,000 tourists per day only.”
The Interior department will also seek an audit of Boracay environmental fees.
WITH ROY D.R. NARRA