STAKEHOLDERS gathered in a Department of Tourism (DoT)–organized Save Boracay Workshop, nine days before the country’s premier tourist destination will be shut down by the national government on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, remain in a quandary as to exactly what will happen to their businesses and their employees.
“The only thing that we’re dead certain about is that we will shut down our businesses for half a year, and we don’t know exactly how to take care of our workers,” said Nenet Graf, president of Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI).
“We’re wracking our brains trying to figure out where to get the money to pay them for six months because DoLE (Department of Labor and Employment), we understand, does not want us to close our businesses, and we’re being asked to pay regular wages for the duration of the island shutdown,” said Ms. Graf, sounding exasperated.
Ms. Graf — a native of Boracay and an internationally recognized windsurfer, along with a handful of stakeholders who include resort and restaurant owners, representatives of indigenous peoples living on the island, tour operators and the like came to the workshop meeting at the Savoy Hotel at Megaworld’s Newcoast development at the northernmost tip of Boracay, thinking they would be able to get shutdown guidelines more clear-cut than what had partially been released earlier by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
As it turns out, of the nine agencies and two local government units (LGUs) represented in Tuesday, Apr. 17 meeting, only one — the Metro Boracay Task Force led by Police Regional Office 6 (PRO 6) director, Chief Superintendent Cesar Hawthorne Binag — gave a pretty clear idea about how secure Boracay will be for the duration of the island’s six-month period of rehabilitation.
Armed security forces on the island have been beefed up to a total 630 personnel, including those with the Coast Guard, and those deployed at the jetty port terminal in Caticlan, gateway to Boracay Island, and the Cagban ferry terminal in Boracay to ensure that the Department of Interior and Local Government’s no-ID, no-entry policy is effected. The existing local island police force has also been augmented by 138 more uniformed personnel to make sure, according to Mr. Binag, that “we would be able to undertake crowd dispersal management action, if need be.”
The Task Force comprises 126 personnel from Aklan Police Provincial Office; 300 from Metro Boracay Task Force/Boracay Sub-Station; 4 from the Regional Civil Security Unit 6 (RCSU6); 13 from Aklan Provincial Highway Patrol Unit (HPU); 1 from Aklan Provincial Criminal Investigation and Detective Team (CIDT) and 166 augmentation personnel who will compose the provisionary company.
Basically, the only other guidelines presented to stakeholders during Tuesday, Apr. 17 meeting were those that had already earlier been issued by the DILG: no tourists allowed on Boracay, with those attempting to get in stopped at the Caticlan Jetty Port; no ID, no entry with only those residents who could present an ID card indicating residential address in Boracay allowed in. Government-issued ID bearers will be allowed, as well as those with non-government IDs, for as long as these are accompanied by Boracay barangay certification.
Only residents are allowed to swim, and only in the Angol area which locals here refer to as Station 3, and only between 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.
No visitors of Boracay residents will be allowed entry unless in an emergency and only if they are cleared by the Boracay Security Committee comprised of a DILG representative, the police, and local government officials. Journalists wanting to cover activities on Boracay during the shutdown period must get prior approval from the Department of Tourism and they must specify a definite duration and will be limited only to certain areas.
There will be no floating structures — ships, bancas, jetskis, and the like — allowed up to 15 kilometers from the shoreline.
Foreign residents of Boracay will have their immigration papers revalidated by the Bureau of Immigration. Also there will only be one entry, one exit point to and from the island, and where these points are have yet to be decided by ‘”authorities.”
Elena Bruegger, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry–Boracay (PCCI-Boracay), thought that she and other stakeholders remain virtually in the dark about many things. She recalled that the Malay local government unit had presented a six–month plan to rehabilitate the island since the President had expressed his dismay about Boracay being a “cesspool.”
“I believe that plan can be implemented and we in the private sector here would like to see how we can help in the rehab plan for the island. However, I think everyone in this room is looking for a long-term sustainable solution. What happens after the six months is over? And will six months be enough to really fix up the island’s drainage, sewage, road widening, clean up and other problems?” she said.
Ms. Bruegger, who has for years been involved in the luxe house rental business in Boracay, said, “resorts and hotels have received many cancelled reservations and bookings; we have yet to have a clearer picture as to how much income will be lost in the six months shutdown.”
At the start of the meeting Tuesday, Apr. 17, DOT Region 6 Director Helen Catalbas said the main purpose of the gathering was to secure the commitment of both pertinent agencies, the local government units and the stakeholders to fully cooperate with and support the national government’s efforts in rehabilitating Boracay.
“For as long as we’re told clearly how we could help, how the national government intends to assist us with our employees who will be out of work, for as long as we are clearly guided properly, there is no question, we will help. But tell us how exactly,” Ms. Bruegger said. — Teodoro Y. Montelibano