Duterte declares state of calamity in Boracay

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 26 2018 05:49 PM | Updated as of Apr 26 2018 09:58 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday officially declared a state of calamity in three barangays in beach destination Boracay just as the island's 6-month shutdown began. 

Duterte signed Proclamation No. 475 placing Barangays Balabag, Manoc-Manoc, and Yapak in Malay town under a state of calamity.

The proclamation will expedite the release of funds needed for infrastructure work on the island. The government is also eyeing the release of a P2-billion fund to assist workers displaced by the island’s half-year shutdown.

The declaration cited the unbridled construction on the island and the continuous rise in tourist arrivals as among reasons for the congestion and degradation of the island’s environment.

“It is necessary to implement urgent measures to address the… human-induced hazards, to protect and promote the health and well-being of its residents, workers, and tourists, and to rehabilitate the island in order to ensure the sustainability of the area and to prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem,” the proclamation read.

The proclamation also states that the three barangays in Boracay will remain under a state of calamity until lifted by the President, “notwithstanding the lapse of the six-month closure period.”

The proclamation was released a day after Boracay workers went to the Supreme Court to ask that the closure be stopped.

The Palace has downplayed the petition, noting that the entire island, excluding areas with valid titles, is state-owned based on a 2008 Supreme Court ruling.

Palace: Petition vs Boracay closure has no merit [http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/04/25/18/palace-petition-vs-boracay-closure-has-no-merit]

Duterte had described the top tourist destination as a “cesspool”, citing the untreated wastewater that hotels and establishments supposedly dump into the open sea.

The government aims to improve the island’s sewerage system and road networks, eliminate the accumulation of solid waste, remove structures violating shore easement rules, and recover the island’s wetlands during the 6-month shutdown.

Businesses on the island have been bracing for the closure, as they are set to lose billions in earnings and leave jobless the island’s estimated 30,000 workers from both the formal and informal sectors.

The island’s closure is also expected to hit the economy of Aklan province, as large amounts of produce and meat products being brought to Boracay usually come from the mainland.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, meanwhile, said Boracay’s closure may lead to the decline of the country’s gross domestic product by P1.96 billion.