By Tara Yap
Two weeks before its scheduled shutdown, the natives of world-renowned Boracay Island in Aklan province appealed to President Duterte to consider the socio-economic implications of the move.
“Dapat pumunta dito si President Duterte at magusap sa amin (President Duterte should come here and talk to us),” said Delia Justo, the 58 year-old tribal chieftain of the Ati indigenous group.
She told the Manila Bulletin that the Ati community in Boracay is relying on tourism to survive.
When foreign tourists come to visit their ancestral settlement, they earn from donations.
They also earn from selling organic soaps to hotels and resorts while young Ati men are hired as workers in construction projects.
“Kadtuan diri ni Presidente kag lantawon niya. Hindi siya mag pati-pati sa iya mga tinawo. Imbesitgahan niya. Mga lokal manugid gid na kon ano diri gakalatabo. (The President should come here. He should not believe what his people say. He should investigate it himself. The locals will tell him the truth),” echoed 54 year-old Dan Gelito, who has lived in Boracay his whole life.
While amenable to the government’s rehabilitation program, Gelito said he is against the decision to suspend tourism for the next six months.
“Kon sin-o nagkamali, sila lang masabat. Nga-a ipasara niya gid ang bilog nga Boracay? (Whoever is at fault should be the ones punished. But why does he have to close Boracay entirely?)”, Gelito stressed in an interview with the Manila Bulletin.
“Saan kami kukuha ng ibibili para sa araw-araw na kailngan pag wala na ang mga turista? (Where are we going to get money for our everyday needs when the tourists are gone?)” Justo said.
“Mga negosyante may kwarta sa bangko pero kami wala. Wala sila labot kon six months o pila ka tuig magsarado. Ang gobyerno, maka sustain bala sa amon nga imol? (The businessmen have money at the bank, but we don’t. Can the government sustain us, the poor?),” Gelito added.
There is a proposed P2 billion calamity fund, but officials have earlier claimed it is for displaced workers of registered Boracay businesses.