Interior Asec: Boracay businessmen 'scaring' locals

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  • Interior Asec assures locals gov't assistance will be provided
  • Tourism Congress: Gov't plans for shutdown only proposals, piecemeal
  • Gov't yet to reveal how locals can avail assistance two weeks ahead of shutdown
  • Gov't assures 5,000 jobs; Tourism Congress estimates 40,000 jobs lost
  • Interior Asec, Tourism Congress butt heads on assistance for businesses

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 9) — Boracay's local businessmen are scaring residents about the six-month shutdown, Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III said.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday, Densing said it was not true the government had no plan for assisting locals.

"Unfortunately we heard on the ground yesterday that some businessmen are giving scary stories to the residents... that they won't be getting anything from government and they'll be losing jobs and they won't be able to eat for six months," said Densing. "We're telling them that it's not true."

"It's really unfair, using these people," he added.

Two weeks ahead of the shutdown, locals have expressed concern about their source of income and livelihood. The Labor Department has assured it would provide jobs to 5,000 workers, 2,000 of which are allotted for the indigenous Ati tribe.

However, local businessmen maintain this is not enough. They estimate almost 40,000 jobs will be lost during the closure.

Related: Three week notice of Boracay closure unfair – stakeholders

The government is also expected to tap a P2 billion calamity fund to assist the locals.

"It's more than enough to give them at least four months of bridge compensation. In our computations, for 20,000 people at a minimum wage in the area, that's around P800 million for four months," said Densing.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III pegged emergency employment assistance funds at P60 million.

Densing also admitted the inter-agency task force has yet to finalize plans and guidelines for the closure.

Jojo Clemente, President of Tourism Congress of the Philippines, pointed out that the government still has to reveal how residents and workers can avail of this assistance. He said the accusation of scaring employees is "unfair."

"Government has yet to issue an official guideline or plan to address the employment situation with the looming closure," Clemente told CNN Philippines in a text message. "Whatever plans that have been stated so far have been proposals and given out piecemeal."

Clemente previously expressed doubt the P2-billion budget was enough to cover the whole six-month shutdown.

In statement issued Monday, the Labor Department warned establishments not to terminate their employees.

Bello notified employers through an advisory they may only "observe the principle of 'No Work, No Pay,' or require the employees to go on forced leave by utilizing their leave credits, if any."

Densing believes larger businesses have the corporate social responsibility to cover their employees' salaries for the next four months.

"Ang mga negosyanteng malalaki [These big businesses], they already made millions and billions of pesos. So tutulungan mo pa ba sila [Do we still need to help them]?" said Densing. "They made enough money to pay for the potential salaries."

Clemente also slammed the suggestion as unfair.

"This is a government-mandated closure and thus, government must also share in taking care of the people who will be displaced regardless of whether they are big or small businesses," he said.

The scramble to clean up the world-famous tourist destination came after President Rodrigo Duterte called it "a cesspool," and threatened to shut it down permanently if its pollution problem went unsolved.

Watch the complete interview with Densing here.