Gov’t not yet fully prepared to cushion impact of Boracay closure
BORACAY ISLAND, AKLAN – Government agencies are apparently not yet fully prepared to cushion the impact of a six-month closure of Boracay Island barely nine days before the island is closed to tourists.
President Duterte is expected to declare a state of calamity over the 1,032-hectare island and an executive order shutting down tourism activities on the island.
But in the first and only conference to discuss government’s plans for the closure and rehabilitation of the island, government officials admitted that they were still in the process of profiling and validating about 30,000 registered and unregistered workers that would be affected and would require financial and other assistance from the government.
Many Boracay residents and business operators, who attended the conference at the Savoy Hotel here, lamented what they said was the lack of a comprehensive plan and preparedness to address the impact of the closure that can last for six months. “The plans were lacking especially on assisting displaced workers. Only the security plan was comprehensive,” said Nenette Aguirre-Graf, president of the business group Boracay Foundation Inc.
The Department of Labor and Employment is still in the process of profiling workers who will be affected by the closure.
The DOLE in Western Visayas has completed the validation of 3,308 registered workers and another 841 in the informal sector but no compensation package was presented.
The local government of Malay town in Aklan province estimates that there are 17,328 registered employees and 19,289 unregistered workers.
“It’s only nine days before the closure and there is no comprehensive plan. The national government is not prepared. What will we feed our families?” one of 150 stakeholders who attended the meeting told the INQUIRER on condition of anonymity.
Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III said the interagency task force on Boracay hopes to come up with a validated initial list of workers who will be given assistance before the island is closed to tourists on April 26.
Densing said the assistance would come from the P2.3-billion that would be allotted from the calamity fund.
He assured there were enough funds to provide assistance for workers that will be affected but he said these would not amount to the salaries received by the workers.
The DOLE in Western Visayas earlier said assistance for the workers would include compensation amounting to the regional minimum daily wage of P323.50 from 30 to 90 days.
Densing said the agencies were targeting to provide cash-for-work jobs to an initial 5,000 that could be hired to help in the demolition of illegal structures and the rehabilitation projects including road widening work.
He said they are validating the employment figures provided by the local government of Malay town and business groups.
The closure of the island, the country’s prime tourist destination, could be shortened and a “soft-opening” could be held by late July or early August if several environmental and other parameters are reached, according to Densing.
Among these is the improvement of water quality which should be within acceptable standards for the whole month.
Solid waste also needs to be reduced to zero and the 30-meter easement along the long beach and Bulabog beach should be fully enforced.
At least three of five wetlands that have been covered by structures should be cleared and at least 60 percent of the road system should also be cleared, said Densing.
None of the secretaries of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Tourism and Department of Tourism attended the meeting.
Several of the questions raised by residents and business owners could not be answered by the other officials of the agencies who were at the conference.
Tourism Western Visayas director Helen Catalbas said the presence of the department heads were not required because their focus was on policy-making and the conference was mainly technical and more on enforcement.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque joined the conference with Boracay residents and business operators after a press conference.
He called on the audience to cooperate with the efforts to clean up the island and to stop the violations.
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