Gov't to use calamity fund to help displaced Boracay workers

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The PNP cited coordination with the local government of Malay, Aklan and other stakeholders as the reasons for the lower crime rate in Boracay this year.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 5) — The government will give financial help to over 30,000 workers on Boracay Island when it becomes off-limits to tourists for six months.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte is set to declare Boracay under a state of calamity. The P2 billion calamity fund will be used to assist the displaced workers.

"There will be a declaration of (a) state of calamity. The President was insistent that (calamity fund) will go only to the workers who will be displaced," he said in a media briefing.

He said the calamity fund will come from the national and local government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Labor and Employment.

Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones clarified workers from establishments who violated environmental rules are excluded from the help from the calamity fund. He said these workers should be financially assisted by their employers.

"(Calamity fund) will only go to legitimate hoteliers and businesses," he said.

The calamity fund will also be used to help indigenous people from the island.

"Sila ang nawalan. We will help them in this time of rehabilitation," Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Thursday said the displaced workers will be provided financial assistance through government programs with the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"Ang usapan namin ni Sec. Leyco (DSWD Undersecretary Emmanuel Leyco), we will take care of the conditional transfer and livelihood projects," he told CNN Philippines Newsroom.

Bello added the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will take care of the other workers that cannot be assisted by DSWD. They will be given jobs to help clean up the island.

"Sa hindi niya mabigyan, bibigyan ko ng emergency employment. We will give them employment for the time they will be dislocated. Ang ibibigay naming trabaho ay ang paglilinis ng Boracay, including yung problema ng sewerage system, mga beach shore na napaka dumi. 'Yun ang kanilang magiging trabaho," he said.

[Translation: Those who cannot be assisted by DSWD will be given emergency employment by DOLE. We will give them employment for the time they will be dislocated. We'll give them the job of cleaning Boracay, including fixing the sewerage system, cleaning the beach shores. That will be their job.]

There are over 30,000 workers on the island. About 17,000 are employed by establishments, such as hotels, restaurants, and bars. About 17,000 workers, meanwhile, are considered indirect workers of the island; they provide services such as those who offer massages along the beach shore, sand castle makers, and henna artists, etc.

The island welcomed over 2 million visitors in 2017 and generated P56 billion in estimated total revenues.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III said the government may lose over P18 billion in income due to the closure.

"If we will go through the full 6 months, it could reach around 18 to 20 billion potential loss in gross receipts," he said in a media briefing.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered the temporary closure of the island from tourists.

The rehabilitation will take six months starting April 26.

The closure order was no surprise after Duterte publicly denounced the serious neglect of Boracay that has deteriorated over the years.

"I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool," he said. "You go into the water, it's smelly. Smell of what? S**t," he said in February.

Out of the 2,600 establishments on the island, over 830 establishments were found discharging waste-water directly into the beach.

The concerned government agencies are set to conduct a multi-sectoral workshop in Boracay on April 10, Tourism Undersecretary Rick Alegre said on Thursday.