THE Department of Trade and Industry has proposed a phased rehabilitation of Boracay Island, even as Malacañang has asked the DTI and two more agencies to detail and justify their recommendation to close the top tourist destination starting April 26 to give way to environmental rehabilitation works.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Palace received a letter with “very short content” from the DTI, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of the Interior and Local Government recommending Boracay’s closure for six months.
The Office of the President, through the Executive Secretary’s office, has asked the three agencies to submit a more detailed memo on their reasons to close Boracay, considering thousands of lives—including the island’s residents and workers—and businesses are at stake.
“We have requested the three agencies to submit a more detailed memo on the justification, or there is any qualification at all to their recommendation, and I think later we’ll be receiving those memoranda expanding, explaining and justifying their recommendation,” Guevarra said.
The DTI proposal, he added, considers the fate of almost 19,000 workers on the island. Of the figure, 17,735 are registered workers, and the remaining work in the informal sector like transportation and micro-scale enterprises.
Boracay is one of the country’s top eight tourist destinations, according to the Department of Tourism. In 2017, about 3.72 million people flew to the island, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
“It’s the economic impact on the island and the people residing and working there that has to be considered by the President,” Guevarra said. “It’s not only the environment, but the people, their livelihood and businesses. All of these will have to be taken into account.”
The Palace official said some foreign workers on Boracay may also be affected, “but we have to think much longer than six months.”
“We have to think of the years to come, of the next generation to enjoy the island. So, it’s too bad that there are certain short-term effects, some sacrifice that has to be made. But we must not lose sight of the fact that this is for the long term,” he added.
Guevarra said President Rodrigo Duterte, who has called the island a “cesspool” for its recent water and sewerage problems, is considering many options, and “it is his prerogative to close the entire island or in phases on that particular date [April 26] or move it on another date.”
“When we make our recommendations [to Duterte], we are not 100 percent sure that our recommendations will be followed. Because the President, you know, has the prerogative, he has all the information at the tip of his fingers. So, he has better information than the rest of us,” he said.
Guevarra said the President is a very reasonable man, adding: “For that reason, I guess, he will be able to consider other points of view as well.”
Duterte earlier said he is amenable to a six-month closure of Boracay to allow its rehab. Residents, local business owners and other stakeholders, however, have appealed to the government to allow them to continue operating the islands’ resorts and ventures while the environmental work is ongoing.
“Definitely there’s a consideration, you know. But it’s really the overwhelming consideration for the President, really, is to restore Boracay to its pristine condition. So, I guess, the President is also ready, all things being equal, to make a decision, a firm decision to save Boracay,” the Palace official said.
Boracay’s stakeholders have been waiting anxiously for the government’s decision, especially since the proposed April 26 shutdown comes before the annual Labor Day parties on the island, which attracts thousands of tourists.
A shutdown of the island could lead to 36,000 jobs lost and P56 billion in lost revenue, the stakeholders said earlier, based on the island’s revenue during the first nine months of 2017. This is equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the country’s total tourism receipts.
The tourist hotspot’s workers man the hotels, resorts, restaurants, dive shops, souvenir shops, tour activity centers, and transport providers there, data from the Boracay Foundation showed. Informal sector workers there include massage therapists, tattoo artists and vendors by the beach.