Aklan provincial board asks Duterte to reconsider Boracay closure

BORACAY, Philippines – The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial board) of Aklan urged President Rodrigo Duterte to reject calls for the closure of Boracay Island.

The provincial board approved a resolution asking Duterte to reconsider his decision, and to allow uninterrupted tourism and economic activities in the island while measures to restore, preserve, and protect its environmental integrity are ongoing.

In February, the President threatened to close Boracay to tourists and gave Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu 6 months to fix the island's environmental woes.

Duterte had also announced he will declare a state of calamity, in response to the rehabilitation plans of an inter-agency task force composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Tourism, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

In Resolution No. 2018-717 authored by Aklan board member Esel Flores, the local legislators welcomed the President's statements as a timely warning and an admonition to all stakeholders to collectively address the environmental concerns of Boracay.

"Ongoing efforts to restore the island can still be done, and continue to be done, while Boracay Island remains open for economic and tourism activities," Flores said.

The resolution also cited that the renowned island in the northern end of Panay Island contributed P55 billion ($1.06 billion)* in tourism receipts, and accommodated more than 1 million foreigners in 2017.

According to Flores, the 3 barangays (villages) Yapak, Manoc-Manoc, and Balabag were able to generate local revenues for the delivery of services. He added that Aklan's poverty incidence dropped from 45% in 2009 to 15% in 2015 due to the thriving tourism industry.

Flores said around 18,000 registered workers and a big number of informal sector workers would be displaced if plans to shut down Boracay push through.

Aklan's Sangguniang Panlalawigan also supported the consensus among senators present during a March 2 hearing that only those establishments violating the law should be penalized, while the compliant ones should be rewarded. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = P52.03