MANILA - Several senators on Thursday called on the executive department to fine-tune the implementation of Boracay's 6-month closure that seemed to lack concrete plans and targets.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the island's half-year shutdown and rehabilitation starting on April 26, but no specific plans for affected businesses and tourists have been laid out yet, lawmakers noted.
"May imbitasyon ako sa kasal sa May 18. Paano na 'yun? Bahala na ang mga apektado paano ayusin ang malaking gusot? Sorry na lang sa lahat sa biglaang pagsara? Pinag-isipan ba ito ng maayos?" opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan said in a Facebook post.
Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development chair Joel Villanueva also expressed concern over the closure.
"It is unfortunate that the rehabilitation plan and livelihood interventions for the workers has not been clearly set in motion first before the closure of Boracay,” he said in a statement.
“Mahirap at kumplikado dahil nasa drafting stage pa ang guidelines on Boracay shutdown. At any rate, we hope that all stakeholders are being consulted, there are clear accountabilities and timelines for the deliverables,” the senator added.
About 36,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, and small retail stores on the island are expected to lose their jobs during the shutdown.
"Regardless of the length of shutdown, there is a disruption on livelihood,” Villanueva said.
Sen. Sonny Angara, vice chair of the Senate labor committee, said affected workers should be given priority in the disbursement of the P2.3-billion budget allotted for the labor department's "Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced workers" program (TUPAD program).
Under the program, displaced workers will be given "emergency employment" and skills training to help them find other means of livelihood, Angara said.
"Cash-for-work programs" should also be offered to those who will lose their jobs due to the closure, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said.
"It will be good to offer to the people of Boracay the opportunity to help clean up their community by being employed in the government’s environmental rehabilitation program," Gatchalian said.
Sen. JV Ejercito, meanwhile, shared Pangilinan's view that the island, known for its fine, white sand beaches that draw thousands of tourists from around the world, should be closed during the lean season that starts in June.
"My proposal is to close Boracay this coming June which is considered as "off season" in order to minimize the disruption to the bookings and reservations already made by tourists," Ejercito said in a statement.
A group of hotel and resort operators in Boracay earlier said at least a dozen large accommodations may lose P50 million each due to the abrupt closure of the popular tourist destination.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the planned closure will be a "disaster" if the departments of environment, tourism, and interior and local government would draw up plans only when the shutdown starts.
Clear plans for rehabilitation projects in Boracay should be laid out first before Congress disburses funds, he said.
"Under our budgeting, procurement, accounting and auditing rules, you cannot ask for a blank check, and then say that liquidation shall follow. The release of funds is based on a program of work, with the deliverables clearly identified," Recto said.
"Kailangan parang mayroong Waze. May guide map na susundan. Freelancing is a no-no. Ipinasara mo ang buong isla, pinagbakasyon mo libo-libong manggagawa, tapos sporadic ang rehabilitation?" he said.
The country is expected to lose some P56 billion in tourism revenues during Boracay's half-year closure, data from the Boracay Foundation showed.