By Mario Casayuran
Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian today urged the Duterte administration to launch emergency financial assistance and livelihood programs to compensate workers in the informal sector for lost wages expected during the six-month closure of Boracay Island which takes effect Thursday.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy and economic affairs committees, estimated that more than 6,000 workers employed in the informal sector of Boracay Island and the surrounding municipality of Malay, Aklan, would be affected by the closure order.
President Duterte wanted the tourist spot closed for rehabilitation for at least six months. He had described the waters of Boracay as a ‘’cesspool.’’
Gatchalian said estimates show that informal sector laborers employed on and around Boracay Island could lose as much as P166 million in wages over the next six months.
The government needs to put programs in place to ensure that every centavo of these losses will be compensated,” he said.
“Informal sector workers will be particularly vulnerable during the closure period because it will be much more difficult to identify them and provide the necessary public aid,” he explained .
He then urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to put strategies in place to serve the needs of the informal sector.
Gatchalian stressed the need to fast-track the implementation of a mix of cash-for-work programs, cash transfers, and other social welfare measures before Boracay’s vibrant tourism-based economy comes to a grinding halt on April 26.
“Boracay’s small-time laborers are not to blame for the environmental mess on the island, and they should not be made to suffer the consequences of the reckless illegal behavior of careless big businesses,” he said.