When President Rodrigo Duterte wants something done, it will get done. He had described the island of Boracay, the country’s primary resort destination to go for foreign tourists, celebrities and even Filipinos who can afford it, as a “cesspool” and demanded its rehabilitation even if it means being closed. The local tourism businesses and local residents protested at the loss of their jobs; the Budget Secretary worried about the loss of revenue, but what has been ordered, cannot be stopped. A date was set to close Boracay, with police and military assistance. Flights schedules were reshuffled. Finally, the day arrived.
CNN Philippines reports that the inter-agency task force assembled and assigned to oversee the environmental rehabilitation of Boracay island has finally enforced the proposed six-month closure of the resort complex on its scheduled date of Thursday, April 26. They have done it even without a tangible backing of a legal order by President Duterte, rather going off only on his verbal instruction. The chief executive had, at the most, only approved the closure duration proposed by the Departments of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, and Interior and Local Government, three weeks ago on April 4.
With the enforced closure, travel and staying in Boracay has been prohibited to both domestic and foreign tourists. Only island residents with government-issued identification have the freedom to come and go, and only from one designated jetty port. In other cases authorized people can only go there in the event of emergencies, and only after passing approval from the joint task force security committee composed of police and military personnel. Some who live on Boracay’s three barangays have groused at the measures as being overkill, and are also worried at how they would financially support themselves for half a year without the island’s tourism infrastructure.
To cushion the blow for the resort and business employees who have lost their work, officials have moved to place Boracay under a state of calamity, to release a fund totaling P2 billion to be doled out to the affected workers and residents. This officially needs an executive order from President Duterte, though Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo hopes that the order will be signed before April 26 is out. In the meantime, Boracay residents have pitched in with public volunteers and contracted corporations to clean up the locale and dismantle business and commercial buildings that violate environmental and zoning regulations.
If the closure schedule of six months holds true, the tourism industry standstill could see a ₱1.96 billion revenue loss. Secretary Teo hopes the amount of participants in the cleanup could accelerate it to the point that a “soft reopening” might be possible in June or July, rather than September.
Photo courtesy of ABSCBN News