Boracay workers appeal for steady gov’t help
Residents of Boracay, who were rendered unemployed by the closure of the resort island to tourists, said the announcement of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat that only a “soft opening” would happen in October meant that their suffering would be prolonged.
“We have no livelihood and have gone hungry for more than four months now. This only means that our suffering will be longer,” Olive Abañera, spokesperson for We Are Boracay, told the Inquirer.
We Are Boracay is a group of market and souvenir vendors, tour guides, masseuses, tricycle drivers and workers in establishments serving tourists on the island in Malay town, Aklan province.
Abañera said that with many resorts, hotels, restaurants and other shops expected not to open by Oct. 26, workers would still have no income and livelihood.
At least 30,000 workers have been affected by the closure, according to the Malay town government.
The three Boracay villages—Manoc-Manoc, Balabag and Yapak—were placed under a state of calamity after President Duterte ordered the island closed on April 26 for a six-month rehabilitation.
Mr. Duterte had called the island a “cesspool” due to its environmental problems.
Abañera, a cook in a small restaurant operating before tourists were barred from the island, said she would still be jobless because the restaurant where she used to work would not yet operate in October.
“We opposed the closure of the island because we believed rehabilitation could not be finished in six months and we proposed that the rehabilitation could be done without closure,” she said.
“Government agencies dismissed our protests. But listen to them now,” she added.
In the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Tuesday, Puyat said visitors should lower their expectations when the island reopens to tourists on October 26.
“We are managing expectations. It will be open but don’t expect all the roads to be completed,” she said, adding that the upgrading of the island’s drainage system would be completed next year.
But she said at least 5,000 rooms would be ready when the island welcomes tourists.
Rehab in phases
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu earlier said a dry run of the opening would be conducted from October 16 to 25.
Local tourists, especially those from Aklan, will be allowed on the island.
Puyat said only the first phase of the rehabilitation would be completed by Oct. 26.
The second phase will end on April 26 next year while the last phase will run until the end of 2019.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Labor and Employment have been providing cash-for-work, livelihood and other assistance to residents displaced by the closure.
But Abañera said these were not enough.
“It has been weeks since [the] release [of assistance]. The food assistance was [given] only once. And it’s only the fourth month of closure,” she said.
Government assistance, she said, should continue and be increased especially since it was uncertain if many of the residents and workers could still regain their livelihood and resume work.
“We are not victims of a natural calamity but by the closure of the island by the government,” she said.
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