It’s final. Boracay will be closed for six months, starting April 26.
This, after President Rodrigo Duterte gave his approval on April 5, Wednesday, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
The 24th Cabinet meeting held April 4, Tuesday sought for the recommendation of three government departments—interior, environment, and tourism—to temporarily close Boracay for rehabilitation purposes.
Duterte, who previously labeled Boracay as a cesspool, amended the proposal of DENR/DOT/ DILG, after a thorough discussion.
Roque said that there will be no partial closure—which Jose Clemente III, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, found as a surprise.
“We were expecting some sort of compromise between a partial or total closure or at least given more time to adjust to a closure, but I guess the president made up his mind and we’re taken aback by it. We’re a bit depressed right now in the industry,” Clemente III said in an interview on ANC.
According to the data from Boracay Foundation, roughly 19,000 people are working in hotels, restaurants, resorts, tour activity centers, dive shops, souvenir shops, and transport providers. While another 17,000 are working as tattoo artists, massage therapists, and vendors.
Paddle instructors Rommel dela Cruz, 23 and Jaymar Gaytano, 21, are on the verge of losing daily income ranging from P200 (USD4) to more than P2000 (USD40).
For the two, the rehabilitation effort is too late. Also, they do not believe that six months is enough to resolve the problem in the island.
“Hindi nila kaya, tulad ng D-Mall na ito, konting ulan lang, baha siya, kapag dalawang araw ang ulan, lalo na. Kita ninyo yung mga hukay, pinag-iisipan pa nila kung saan padadaanin yung tubig. Sa Laketown dati ang daanan ng tubig, hindi dito sa dagat,” Gaytano said.
[It is not possible. Like at D-Mall, a few raindrops will cause flooding. If the rains continue for two days, the situation can worsen. As you can see the holes, they are still thinking where to direct water. The water used to go to Laketown, not straight to the beach].
The data from the foundation also showed that there’s a potential tourism revenue loss of P56 billion if the island will be closed for 9 months, looking at its revenue during the first 9 months of 2017.
To help affected workers, calamity funds would be activated, according to Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra. He added that a state of calamity would also be declared in Boracay for a faster rehabilitation process.
As expected, netizens didn’t keep mum about the issue and took to social media to express their sentiments about the closure of one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
“The people of Boracay have long battled the environmental abuse caused by greedy businesses and irresponsible tourists. And their cries have not been heard yet. I am one with the government in rehabilitating Boracay, so future generations can still witness the beauty that it has to offer,” Joseph Mababa, an avid traveller said.
“But total closure of the island is uncalled for. It almost felt rushed, and to a certain degree, irrational. Nobody is getting into the way of the rehabilitation. All they ask is that the rehabilitation be done in segments. Tourism is the main source of income of most locals of Boracay. By just partially closing some parts of the island, they are allowing businesses and locals to find an alternative livelihood to sustain their family’s financial needs. Six months may be short, but can be fatal to those left with nothing #SaveBoracay #DontCloseIt,” Mababa added.
“I agree that something needs to be done. But what will happen after 6 months? Back to the routine. What will happen to all the people who are going to lose their jobs? Will there be program to find another job? What will happen with those businesses that were following the regulations? It’s not all black and white. Demolishing things without thinking about alternatives is leading to nowhere,” a netizen said.
“I don’t understand this. I am not questioning that the island needs some rehabilitation, but to completely close it off is nuts. A country that relies so much on tourism cannot afford billions in losses and the workers can’t afford such pay losses. This is another irresponsible decision by a dictator who knows no compromise and only knows extreme measures. Surely, there is a way to compromise on such things,” another netizen commented.