Duterte declares state of calamity in Boracay

STROLLING IN BORACAY. Foreign tourists stroll along the white sands of Boracay in Aklan during a cloudy day early this year. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Rod Garcia earlier said the six-months cleanup and rehabilitation works in the island, which will start on April 26, could be shortened or extended, if found necessary. PNA photo by Joey Razon

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Boracay under state of calamity on Thursday, April 26, the same day when the island’s six-month closure begun.

Duterte has signed Proclamation No. 475, declaring barangays Balabag, Manoc-Manoc, and Yapak in Malay town under a state of calamity “until lifted by the president, notwithstanding the lapse of the six-month closure period.”

Boracay will be closed until October 25 as part of the government’s efforts to address the world-famous island’s environmental woes.

The proclamation cited several violations that led to Boracay’s closure, such as the high concentration of fecal coliform due to insufficient sewer lines and illegal discharge of untreated wastewater into the beach.

Aside from waste management violations, it also cited the illegal constructions on forestlands and wetlands; the degradation of the coral reefs and coral cover of Boracay Island; and the damage and destruction of the natural habitats of Puka shells, nesting grounds of marine turtles, and roosting grounds of flying foxes or fruit bats.

“It is necessary to implement urgent measures to address the abovementioned human-induced hazards, to protect and promote the health and well-being of its residents, workers and tourists, and to rehabilitate the island in order to ensure the sustainability of the area and prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem,” the proclamation read.

The proclamation will also expedite the release of funds needed for infrastructure work on the island and for assistance to thousands of affected workers and residents.

With the six-month closure in effect, the island is now off-limits to both local and foreign tourists, while individuals who wish to visit Boracay for business purposes, as well as visitors of the local residents, need to secure a permit from the authorities first.

Earlier this week, the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced that it will deploy 400 of its officers to monitor the island amid its closure.

PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde on Monday, April 23, said that Chief Superintendent Cesar Binag, regional director for the Western Visayas, will be “in full control and supervision” and will have the “responsibility on how to deal with the misdeeds” in Boracay.

“We will monitor that (Boracay situation) 24 hours a day. We will be implementing it on the 26th,” Albayalde said.

While the PNP is expecting less resistance, Albayalde assured that the police force will implement maximum tolerance against possible protesters.

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