MANILA - Former environment secretary Gina Lopez on Monday said the indigenous peoples of Boracay should benefit from the island's rehabilitation and its revived economy after a 6-month closure.
Lopez said the "most profound expression of love in the development field" is developing the site "for the people of the area."
"My god, P56 billion and the original settlers of Boracay, they’re called Kulots, where are they? They’re somewhere in the mountain. We’re developing this island, who is benefiting?" she said, referring to the annual revenue Boracay generates.
"I have no problem with businessmen benefiting, but when you have P56 billion going in and out there and the original settlers of the islands are somewhere in the mountain, then there’s something very, very wrong with that," she told ANC's Headstart.
President Rodrigo Duterte's stand against pollution on the holiday island and his political will to rehabilitate it has resulted in a "shift in consciousness" in other tourist spots, she said.
"When you develop the island, when we fix up the environment, I also hope sincerely whoever is there watching that you key in the system so that the people that live there have a non-negotiable part of the economic growth," she said.
Lopez is supportive of the planned demolition of structures which are believed to standing on reclaimed wetlands, saying the national economy would benefit if the island keeps its watersheds.
She also expressed disagreement with the planned casino in Boracay, which might not fit with the "island economy culture."