Antiriot cops bound for Boracay
The Duterte administration was deploying hundreds of antiriot policemen to Boracay to keep travelers out and head off protests that a police officer said could be driven by leftists ahead of the island’s six-month closure to tourists, police said on Tuesday.
Authorities laid out a lockdown plan to keep out all tourists using more than 600 policemen, including a 138-member “crowd dispersal unit,” according to Chief Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, Western Visayas police director, in a televised news conference in Boracay.
“In any transition, especially for a drastic action such as
this, there is always confusion, uncertainties and low morale,” Binag said.
“What we did was to identify the sources of confusion, sources of uncertainty and sources of low morale,” he said.
He said there was also a danger of residents and workers being “agitated” by leftist groups.
Several Boracay residents had raised concern over the deployment of more policemen to the island famous for its white sand beaches.
Binag, in his presentation before officials, business owners and residents in Boracay, said police would also tap 2,000 security guards currently employed by private establishments to help secure the island.
Aside from protests, possible fires, attacks, bombings, kidnappings and gun attacks were also being considered as threats by police, according to Binag.
Entry and exit points in 16 areas would be secured, he said.
Only residents, workers and government personnel would be allowed entry starting on April 26.
Visitor entry would be allowed only on two conditions—there’s an emergency and with permission by security officials.
Residents would be required to secure and present government-issued identification cards for access to the 1,000-hectare Boracay.
Journalists, however, questioned the security plans, especially guidelines for media coverage during the lockdown.
Reporters would be allowed on the island only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the guidelines said.
They would also be escorted and their movements monitored.
Reporters said the restrictions were tantamount to prior restraint.
Frederick Alegre, former reporter and now tourism assistant secretary, said planners would consider the reporters’ feedback.
Business owners, who previously lobbied for a phased rehabilitation program, had warned that an abrupt shutdown could lead to bankruptcies and job losses for many of the island’s 17,000 hotel, restaurant and other tourism workers, including some 11,000 construction workers.
The island drew 2 million visitors last year, earning the country more than a billion dollars in tourism revenue, according to official data.
The abrupt decision to close Boracay had forced hundreds of hotels, restaurants, tour operators and other businesses to cancel bookings, leaving clients fuming.
The threat of closure first emerged in February when Mr. Duterte accused Boracay’s businesses of dumping sewage directly into the island’s turquoise waters.
“I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.
The Duterte administration maintained that it was legal for it to deploy police and bar tourists from the island. —Reports from Nestor P. Burgos Jr. and AFP
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