Lawmakers question lack of overall plan for Boracay rehab
BORACAY ISLAND, AKLAN – Legislators questioned the lack of a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation of Boracay Island as the closure of the island to tourists entered its second month.
In a public hearing of the House committee on natural resources held at the Casa Pilar resort here on Friday, residents also questioned the lack of a comprehensive socio-economic program for those who lost their livelihood and could also lose their homes in the six-month rehabilitation.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the other aspects of rehabilitation like road expansion and improvement of water quality were welcome, but a comprehensive plan was necessary especially in addressing the needs of residents.
“What is the plan of the inter-agency task force? Real lives are being affected not just business operators but the common folk,” Zarate said. “We care for the environment, the trees, the fishes, the turtles and other life forms but we must first and foremost take care as well of the people, especially the poor,” he said.
“Bago sana nagsara, may nagawa nang plano. Nauna pa ang calesa sa kabayo (Before the closure, there should have been a plan. It’s a case of the carriage coming before the horse),” he said.
Rep. Arnel Ty, of the party list group Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers’ Association, who sits as committee chair, asked the task force to submit a comprehensive plan within a month.
“(The plan) is supposed to be their bible (for the rehabilitation),” Ty told reporters.
President Duterte ordered the closure of the island for six months starting April 26 for the rehabilitation after he called Boracay a “cesspool” due to the discharge of waste water into the island’s waters.
The President issued Executive Order No. 53 only on the first day of the closure, which directed the local government of Malay to prohibit the entry of tourists to the island.
The order also placed the three villages of Boracay—Yapak, Balabag and Manoc-Manoc—under a state of calamity.
Zarate said there appears to be a “disconnect” in the government plans for the island.
He cited the plans to rehabilitate the island to become a sustainable tourist destination and the President’s pronouncements that the entire island will be subjected to agrarian reform.
“Which is which?” Zarate asked.
Environment Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo said individual plans by agencies are being implemented through the interagency task forces.
The plans have been submitted for appropriation which the task force earlier announced to reach about P1.3 billion.
The Boracay Action Plan is expected to be released in August after a new carrying capacity of the island is finalized in July.
On May 28, the regional inter-agency technical working group headed by the National Economic Development Authority convened for the first time in Iloilo City.
The technical working group, composed of national government agencies and local government agencies, will draft a medium-term rehabilitation and recovery program.
The program will focus on four major concerns: enforcement of laws and regulations, pollution control and prevention, rehabilitation and recovery of ecosystems and sustainability of island activities.
Southern Leyte Rep. and Deputy Majority Leader Roger Mercado also asked the task force to submit monthly reports of their accomplishments and a matrix with timelines of their activities for the six-month rehabilitation.
During the public hearing, Nenette Aguirre-Graf, president of Boracay Foundation Inc., asked national government agencies to involve business operators and residents in the planning of government agencies.
She also asked the task force to put up a centralized help desk for residents seeking assistance or information from the government agencies so that residents would not “go from one end of the island to another (to check with the various agencies.”
Boracay resident Olive Abañera of the We Are Boracay organization lamented the lack of consultation among residents of the plans and rehabilitation activities.
“We are not against rehabilitation. But why are we bearing the brunt when we are not responsible for the (environmental problems of Boracay),” she asked during the hearing.
She said government assistance for displaced workers and residents was inadequate especially with the opening of classes.
As of May 31, the Department of Social Welfare and Development released P19.8 million in livelihood assistance to 1,323 recipients at P15,000 each.
It will also make releases to another 1,000 recipients this month.
The agency also provided transportation assistance to 9,405 families amounting to P22.7 million, educational assistance to 832 residents amounting to P1.7 million, medical assistance to 155 residents amounting to P593,500 and burial assistance to five families amounting to P25,000, according to a statement.
Also present at the public hearing were North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan, Kalinga Rep. Allen Mangaoang, Aklan Rep. Carlito Marquez and Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores.
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