Duterte signs proclamation placing Boracay under state of calamity

MANILA President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday signed a proclamation placing three barangays (villages) of the island of Boracay under state of calamity and temporarily closing the world famous tourist destination for six months to make way for expeditious rehabilitation.

Under Proclamation No. 475, the state of calamity will take effect in barangays Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapac, all in the municipality of Malay, Aklan.

On the other hand, the temporary closure will be implemented from April 26 to Oct. 25, wherein concerned government agencies shall, as may be necessary or appropriate, undertake the remedial measure during a state of calamity.

The state of calamity on the island of Boracay shall remain in force and effect until lifted by the President, notwithstanding the lapse of the six-month closure period, stated the proclamation signed by the President on Thursday.

It added that all departments, agencies and offices, including government-owned or -controlled corporations and affected local government units are hereby directed to implement and execute the closure and the appropriate rehabilitation works based on the Boracay Action Plan.

Law enforcers, particularly the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines, were also directed to ensure strict implementation of the closure and maintain peace and order.

The local government of Malay was likewise directed to ensure that no tourist enters the island while residents and establishment owners were urged to act within the bounds of the law and comply with the directives.

Duterte signed the proclamation three months after he compared the famous holiday destination to a cesspool due to environmental degradation worsened by sewage dumped into the ocean.

Based on investigations, the government inter-agency task force has discovered high concentration of fecal coliform in the Bolabog beaches due to insufficient sewer lines and illegal discharge of untreated waste water into the beach.

It was also found out that most commercial establishments and residences are not connected to the sewerage system and waste products are not being disposed of through the proper sewerage infrastructures of the island.

The investigators also discovered that only 15 out of 51 establishments near the shores of Boracay were compliant with the Philippine Clean Water Act; that dirty water has resulted in the degradation of the coral reefs; that there was not enough hauling capacity for solid waste; and that there were illegal structures on the wetlands and forestlands.

The continuous rise of tourist arrivals, the insufficient sewer and waste management system, and the environmental violations of establishments aggravate the environmental degradation and destroy the ecological balance of the island of Boracay, it stated.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the declaration of state of calamity will allow the release of some PHP2 billion from the quick response fund for the rehabilitation works and to assist workers to be displaced by the temporary closure of Boracay.

Roque expressed confidence that the temporary restraining order (TRO) filed before the Supreme Court allegedly by a group of workers and residents in Boracay will not be given merit by the court.

An earlier Supreme Court ruling had already recognized that bulk of Boracay except for a private title issued to Tirol family belongs to the state, Roque said in a Palace press briefing on Thursday.

And an indispensable element of a petition for injunction or a prayer for TRO is there must be irreparable injuries. We do not see how individuals who cannot claim ownership over Boracay can suffer any irreparable injury that would warrant the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order or a permanent injunction, he explained.

Unless a TRO is issued, Roque said the closure of Boracay to all tourists will proceed as planned.

Go welcomes Boracay rehab proclamation

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher Lawrence Bong Go welcomed the proclamation that declared the temporary closure of Boracay.

In a statement, Go said other government agencies, including his office, will help speed up and enhance the works on the island which began Thursday.

He also committed support and aid from his office, while asking for understanding from the residents and establishments in the island for the closure.

It is my hope that you will cooperate with the government as we undertake efforts to make the Island of Boracay a more beautiful and sustainable tourist destination, he said. (Juzel L. Danganan/PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency