ILOILO CITY — Thousands of residents and workers on Boracay Island have scrambled to get barangay identification cards, just a little over two weeks before the six-month closure takes effect on April 26.
Residents lined up for hours at the village halls of Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak to get an ID which is a requirement for entry to the island based on the guidelines that would be issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government this week.
“Many of the residents are panicking because of the lack of clear guidelines. They are afraid they won’t be allowed to stay on the island,” said Rowen Aguirre, municipal executive assistant for Boracay affairs.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of a task force to close Boracay, the country’s top tourist drawer, in order to rehabilitate the island following a government crackdown on violators of environment laws.
At least 500 residents and workers flocked to the barangay hall of Manoc-Manoc by noon to apply for an ID, which costs P200 for new applicants and P100 for renewal. The ID is valid for three years.
Chona Gabay, Manoc-Manoc village chief, said about 100 IDs were issued but the process was suspended as village chiefs would still meet with Malay Mayor Ciceron Cawaling to discuss guidelines on the issuance of IDs.
Manoc-Manoc has at least 14,000 residents.
Starting April 26, tourists will be barred from the island. Only workers and residents with valid IDs will be allowed access through the jetty port at Barangay Caticlan in Malay.
Residents will also not be allowed to swim at the beach during the closure. Even journalists who will go to the island for news coverage will need prior approval from authorities.
The closure will affect at least 73,522 residents, including 17,328 registered employees and 9,365 unregistered workers.
David Bermudo, Commission on Human Rights regional director in Western Visayas, said the agency would deploy its personnel to make sure that the rights of residents were not violated amid concern and fear raised by some residents on the stringent guidelines in the enforcement of the closure.
According to Aguirre, residents and workers who will lose their jobs are starting to leave the island to return to their hometowns.
“Business establishments will retain a portion of their staff but many will be let go and asked to return only when operations normalize,” he told the Inquirer.
While most residents and business operators support the crackdown on environmental violators, many have appealed to President Duterte not to totally close the island because of its devastating impact on the livelihood of workers and their families.
The Philippine National Police in Western Visayas sent about 610 policemen to Boracay. Chief Insp. Joem Malong, regional police spokesperson, said policemen would ensure the safety and security of residents during the closure.
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