By Genalyn Kabiling and Tara Yap
Starting this month, the government will provide P448 million worth of assistance to workers displaced by the six-month closure of Boracay, President Duterte announced Tuesday.
The President said the funds, released to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), would be used for livelihood and training programs for affected workers in the island.
“Recently, I have put the entire Boracay Island under a state of calamity, and temporarily closed it to tourists. I know that with this necessary course of action, residents and workers will be greatly hit and affected,” Duterte said in his Labor Day address in Cebu City.
“I have instructed the immediate release of P448 million to DOLE to provide financial support to all affected workers under the Adjustment Measures Program. The financial support will start this May and shall be linked to active labor market programs such as employment facilitation services, training and livelihood,” he added.
DSWD-6 cash aid
Meanwhile,the Western Visayas office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) resumed Tuesday morning handing out cash to workers displaced by the six-month closure of Boracay Island.
DSWD halted its operation Saturday morning when it couldn’t cash the checks intended for the displaced workers since the banks were closed.
“Inuulit po naming, mayroon pang sapat na pondo (We repeat, there is enough funds),” assured DSWD-6 Regional Director Rebecca Geamala.
Since last week, DSWD has distributed an estimated P5 million to more than 2,000 affected workers, prioritizing the transportation aid for those wanting to go back to their home provinces after losing their jobs in Boracay.
Geamala explained that transportation aid is dependent on where the displaced worker is from, but DSWD can only give a maximum of P5,000.
DSWD is also implementing cash-for-work programs for others including informal settlers.
DSWD has transferred its Operation Center at Faith Village in Station 3 to be able to accommodate more of the displaced people.
‘Almost the crown jewel’
In his Labor Day address, the President defended the temporary closure of the island, citing the need to rehabilitate the island and protect the environment.
“Boracay is almost the crown jewel of the country. It is the favorite melting pot of all Filipinos and foreigners. Bakitsisirainmo? (Why would you destroy it),” he said.
“And you know, it has the largest kagaw (bacteria),” he said, citing the algae bloom as a result of the polluted beach.
Land reform area
Duterte also maintained that Boracay remains a forestal and agriculture land, saying he and then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo never signed a proclamation converting some portions of the island into commercial.
“It can only be done by Presidential Proclamation or maybe by Congress,” he added.
The President earlier said he would declare Boracay a land reform area after its six-month rehabilitation period. He said he prefers to give the land to Filipinos especially farmers, rather than foreigners.
The President had earlier issued Proclamation No. 475 placing Boracay under a state of calamity and ordering its closure as tourist destination from April 26 to October 25 this year.
The temporary closure of the island would pave the way for the massive rehabilitation efforts of the pollution-stricken island, including upgrading of sewage system and solid waste management and dismantling of illegal structures.