Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday raised concern over the possible entry of casino operations on Boracay Island in Aklan, citing the rights of the indigenous peoples must be protected.
In her visit to an Ati community in the province, Robredo said: “The only assurance I can give to you is that, should I be given the chance, no matter small is your number and how far you are, we will ensure that our government will take care of you.”
She thanked the Atis for supporting her presidential bid.
“For me, it is important that I have talked and listened to your whole story because that is the dream of the indigenous people community. No. 1, to ensure that you have a good sleep and peace of mind that you would never be evicted,” the presidential candidate said.
“Every day, you are assured of a security of tenure that no other person would have a claim over the property. That is our initial step. Secondly, we will ensure that the government is giving you many opportunities and to live with dignity,” she said.
The Ati community told the Vice President that while they were granted land by the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 after their displacement from Boracay’s Sitio Bulabog, it took them two years before they could occupy the place in Barangay Manoc-Manoc.
The Vice President’s late husband, former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, backed the installation of the Ati community in the area.
She said the Ati community was one of the last places visited by her spouse before his death in a plane crash off the Masbate coast in August 2012.
“When I learned that we were going to Aklan, and we would have a chance to pass by here, I remembered what my husband told me. I still remember who mad he was when you were asked to leave the place when (in fact) you were the first settlers here. There was still no Boracay then,” she said.
Meanwhile, Robredo’s running mate, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, said affordable and quality food will entice more tourists to visit Boracay Island and help sustain businesses and livelihood of the people.
The vice presidential candidate said this is possible if government will bolster support to farmers and fishers to improve their catch and production.
“Fish and food are important, especially in a tourism area. Filipinos have delicious food, but why can’t they buy it?” he said in a visit to the island, dubbed as one of the world’s best beaches.
“That’s because farmers aren’t given importance, that’s why there isn’t enough (food) supply, and food is pricey. That’s why our motto is
‘Hello pagkain, goodbye gutom’ (Hello food, goodbye hunger),” Pangilinan added.
Majority of the farmers and fishers in Aklan province are marketing their produce to Boracay, which has since welcomed tourists anew after months in lockdown due to COVID-19.
Pangilinan said farmers need significant intervention to help them cope with natural disasters and rising prices of commodities they need in production and transportation such as cooking oil.
At the Senate, he has consistently pushed to provide farmers subsidy to ease the impact of oil price spikes. He also proposed a crop insurance program to shield them from the ravages of calamities.
Pangilinan also wants the establishment of agricultural pension for farmers and fisherfolk to provide them substantial and reliable source of income security and retirement benefits.
The people in the fringes of society or “laylayan” will get priority if the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem makes it in the May elections, the senator said.
Pangilinan compared the Philippine society to a basket or bayong that is already too burdened and heavy that lifting it up from the top may no longer work.
Pangilinan also called on social media users to be more discerning especially as the campaign period heats up. He warned of lies and fakes spreading in various social media platforms that could sway voters’ beliefs.
The senator said netizens should verify what they see and should look at the track record of the candidates.
On the light side, Pangilinan said Boracay was memorable for him as it was during his visit in the island in March 1994 for a conference when actress Sharon Cuneta first sent a message that she misses him.
“After 10 days, kami na. Ang hangin sa Boracay, may magic,” he said.