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Boracay stakeholders wait for closure guidelines

/ 06:50 AM April 07, 2018
boracay

Boracay Island. FILE PHOTO

BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA—The dismay over the temporary closure of Boracay later this month has spread far beyond the world-famous island’s idyllic shores to this country which, until recently, was among the top sources of Boracay’s foreign visitors.

“It was big news here,” said Brian Son, who spent his honeymoon in Boracay three years ago. “It’s sad for us.”

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President Duterte, who once called the island a “cesspool,” approved the closure of Boracay for six months starting April 26 to address environmental and law enforcement issues.

2 million visitors

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The government said it would set aside a P2-billion fund for workers affected by the closure in this beach destination that drew 2 million visitors in 2017 and generated some P56 billion in revenue.

At 375,284, Chinese tourists were the top visitors, followed by the Koreans at 356,644.

Airlines take a hit

Think tank Capa-Center for Aviation said in a report that it expected all foreign carriers operating in Kalibo to suspend flights following the closure.

Domestic airlines will also take a hit, Capa said, noting that Boracay accounted for some 6 percent of seat capacity at Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines while Philippines AirAsia allocated over 20 percent.

Among business owners and members of the Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI), questions on how the government intends to implement its closure order have remained unanswered.

The group said that so far, no guidelines had been issued on how workers would be given financial assistance for the next six months, who qualifies for the assistance, how it would be given, and how much they could expect.

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“The haze of uncertainty [in] the past weeks has now been replaced by a grim realization that closure is indeed happening, sooner than expected and with less than a month to prepare,” BFI said.

Emergency employment

The Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) said it could only provide emergency employment assistance to some 5,000 of the 17,000 workers affected by Boracay’s closure.

“That is the only number we could afford,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

The Dole plans to prioritize members of the informal sector, such as food stall vendors, who face the loss of livelihood.

Cleansing of ranks

“We will utilize them to clean up Boracay. That is what we are thinking of, so we will have our own participation in the closure and rehabilitation of Boracay,” Bello added.

Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the next six months would also see the “filing of cases, investigation of the local government unit” and the “cleansing of our ranks.”

“We will look at whether there are failings or problems on those issuing  permits for areas they shouldn’t have issued permits for,” Leones said. —WITH REPORTS FROM MIGUEL R. CAMUS, CONNIE FERNANDEZ-BROJAN, JULES M. AURELIO, JEROME ANING AND JAYMEE T. GAMIL

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TAGS: Boracay, foreign travelers, South Korean, Tourism
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