Group hits ‘double standard’ as foreigners swim in Boracay
ILOILO CITY — The task force supervising the rehabilitation of Boracay is looking into reports that 21 foreigners have been allowed to swim in the supposed restricted waters of the island.
Volunteers of a humanitarian mission, who were earlier barred from entering the island, have decried the “draconian but double standard” measures being implemented by authorities in Boracay.
“We are looking into it and if there will be anyone to be held liable,” Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III told the Inquirer.
Citing reports reaching him, Densing said the 21 foreigners last week sought permission from the local security committee to visit the village of the Ati tribe on the island.
They were then allowed to swim for about 15 minutes with members of the tribe near Station 1, at the northern end of the island.
The foreigners were delegates to Genfest, an international youth conference, held in Manila from July 6 to 8.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of the 1,032-hectare island to tourists for six months starting April 26 to give way to rehabilitation activities.
Under the guidelines being implemented by the Boracay Interagency Task Force, only residents and workers are allowed on the island during its closure.
Journalists had to seek a special accreditation from the Department of Tourism to cover developments on the island.
Relatives and friends of residents may be allowed on the island for emergency purposes and with special clearance from authorities.
During the six-month period, only residents, including expatriates, are allowed to swim from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Swimming was initially limited to a designated area near Station 1 but it was recently expanded to include Angol Beach near Station 3, at the southern end of the island.
The task force earlier said that swimming was restricted to allow the island to recover and to discourage tourists.
“We are banned to swim here, except in certain areas, and we feel like we are prisoners. Yet these [foreigners] were allowed,” said a resident, who asked not to be identified to avoid antagonizing authorities.
On June 30, security personnel stopped 29 Filipino volunteers of nongovernment organizations from entering the island to conduct a humanitarian mission and survey of rehabilitation efforts.
Food donations intended for residents who lost their livelihood due to the closure were allowed but not the volunteers.
Senior Supt. Jesus Cambay Jr., commander of the Metro Boracay Police Task Force, said the police did not grant access to the volunteers because there was no authorization from the task force and because there were security questions. —Nestor Burgos Jr.
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