Nearly 600 gov't troops to patrol Boracay during 6-month shut down

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 24 2018 12:38 PM | Updated as of Apr 24 2018 02:08 PM

A crowd control unit of the Philippine National Police tries to contain ‘protesters’ during a mock demonstration Tuesday on Boracay island in Aklan. Authorities are preparing for any undue situations when the 6-month closure order takes into effect of April 26. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

BORACAY ISLAND - Shots were fired here Tuesday morning as nearly 600 soldiers, police, and coast guard members held simulation exercises for emergency scenarios that may happen here during the island’s 6-month closure.

"Mass protests, capsized boats, terrorist attacks, and illegal entry of tourists are among the possible threats we are preparing for during the shutdown period", Julius Reyes, commander of the army contingent, told ABS-CBN News.

“There are no terrorist threats but we want to be prepared just in case. We don’t want another Inabanga (Bohol) case,” he said.

At least 400 government troops were stationed here before the government announced the half-year shut down, but 150 policemen and 28 more Navy personnel were deployed here recently, Reyes said.

The Philippine Coast Guard also deployed BRP Cabra, a 44-meter multirole vessel manned by about 40 personnel, off Boracay’s white sand coast, he added.

ILLEGAL ENTRANTS

“Binabantayan namin and mga illegal entrants. Anything na papasok na hindi dadaan sa Jetty Port, we will apprehend,” Reyes said.

At least 2 boats illegally ferrying tourists here were apprehended each day before the closure was announced and we have to monitor if the practice continues, he said.

“Mas vulnerable yung northern part ng Boracay kasi mas malapit sa ibang islands tulad ng Romblon.”

Boat owners who will smuggle tourists into the island beginning April 26 will be fined P3,000 for the first offense and P4,000 for the second offense.

The vessel’s permit and license will be canceled should it illegally ferry tourists here for the third time.

Task force members said the increased number of uniformed officials here should not raise fear among residents.

“It is important to send the message that you (government troops) are here to protect them, not to threaten them,” said Leonard Tirol, Boracay Foundation board member and Boracay Action Group adviser.

The island‘s closure was announced earlier this month after President Rodrigo Duterte said its “cesspools” had to be cleaned up.

About 36,000 island workers from the formal and informal sector are expected to lose their jobs during the half-year closure, ONE Boracay a group of stakeholders here earlier said.

At least P50 billion in tourism revenue is expected to be lost during the shut down, the group said