Workers in the popular tourist destination of Boracay are on the brink of hunger as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. claimed.
"Bukas na po ang Boracay pero hindi pa bukas yung mga airports namin (Boracay is already open, but not our airports)," Haresco said via Zoom during a recent hearing of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.
"Kaya (That's why) I would like to inform Mr. Chair the rest of our colleagues and fellow public servants, na kami po sa Boracay of 62,000 workers ay we are facing hunger (We in Boracay, where there are 62,000 workers, we are facing hunger)," he said.
"There are no tourists, no money. Our economy is a monopoly -- isa lang po ang negosyo sa West Aklan, Boracay lang po (the sole business in West Aklan is Boracay)," underscored Haresco, an House appropriations panel vice chairman.
Known for its white sand and pristine beaches, Boracay island attracts two million tourists annually. However, in 2018, no less than President Duterte ordered its closure for six months in order to address longtime environmental problems.
"Sana po ma-spare natin ang domestic tourism kasi napakadami po (Hopefully we can spare domestic tourism because there are many), hundreds of thousands of Aklanons po are facing hunger especially in the hunger month of August," Haresco said in the hearing.
Aside from contending with the hardships of the pandemic, he said Aklan is also coming off a "Yolanda-like" calamity last December when they were hit by a powerful storm. "About 67,000 homes were either partially or totally destroyed," he said.
He thanked House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte for being among the first to send assistance to his typhoon-stricken province.
Haresco recalled a suggestion from Villafuerte that the latter broached to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rolando Bautista on the subject of calamity response.
"Sinuggest ni Deputy Speaker LRay kung pwede pag-isipan ng DSWD ang food vouchers. Sa United States direcho na nila binibigay 'yung food stamps sa mga nangangailangan ng tulong (Deputy Speaker LRay suggested to the DSWD if they could think about using food vouchers. In the United States, food vouchers are given directly to those in need)," the Aklan solon said.
"In the post-COVID scenario marami pong local public market vendors na nawalan po ng negosyo, nawalan ng trabaho. Sana po 'yung food stamp approach na 'yan ay ma-spur ang ekonimiya sa munisipyo (In the post-COVID scenario there will be many local public market vendors who will lose businesses and jobs. This food stamp approach may be able to spur the economy within affected towns)," he added.