Boracay, Aklan – Malacañang on Tuesday, April 17 stressed that the total closure of Boracay for a maximum period of six months was the only way to save the island from further damage.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. said this during his press briefing here at the Savoy Hotel, nine days before the expected shutdown.
The Spokesperson was accompanied by Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Katherine de Castro, DOT Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre, and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III, who provided updates on the recently held “Save Boracay” Working Conference.
Secretary Roque described the President’s move to close down Boracay as a “drastic police measure” that aims to preserve the island’s pristine state for the benefit of future generations.
“It was the only way to do it. It’s a drastic police measure intended to protect the environment. We wanted to see if we could delay it any further, but apparently, the water quality in Boracay necessitated that the closure be done sooner than later,” he said.
Roque made clear that the President’s decision was not done in haste, noting that he gave his Cabinet members a period of six months to come up with their recommendations on the island’s possible closure. Within two months, at least two agencies, already recommended the total shutdown, Roque added.
The President’s Spokesperson further stressed that the administration’s move to rehabilitate Boracay was primarily for the benefit of the locals in the island.
“What the President is trying to underscore is much of Boracay is state-owned, and it should therefore be for the benefit of all Filipinos and not just a few. Definitely, he favors the ordinary Filipinos to benefit from Boracay, and not just the resort owners,” he said.
Roque then assured the public that the government has undertaken various steps to provide alternative work for the displaced workers.
According to DILG Asec. Densing, Boracay’s soft opening could possibly be done in just three to four months, shorter than the six-month approved proposal, provided that certain environmental and other parameters are met.
NFA Council to return under DA
During the same press briefing, Malacañang confirmed that the NFA Council will not be abolished, but will be placed back under the Department of Agriculture (DA), with NFA Council Chairman Leoncio Evasco no longer a part of it.
“Because the NFA is now under the Department of Agriculture anew… Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco will no longer be part of the NFA Council,” Roque explained.
On the other hand, he said an executive order (EO) directing the return of the NFA to the DA would still have to be issued by the President.
Moreover, the Secretary said the importation of the 250,000 metric tons of rice, which was authorized by the Council through a government-to-government transaction, would take about a month to be delivered.
Additionally, he said it was also discussed during the President’s recent meeting with the Council that the smuggled rice apprehended in Zamboanga Sibugay would be donated to the NFA and would be sold as part of its inventory for subsidized rice.
President Duterte meets with Russian Ambassador, affirms shared support with Russia
The Presidential Spokesperson also confirmed the President’s meeting with Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev in Malacañang on Monday, April 16.
He said the foreign official handed to President Duterte a personal letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin, as both parties “affirmed their mutual support for each other.”
Roque said among the topics discussed during the meeting was the current situation in Syria. He said President Duterte expressed hope that the situation would not escalate any further, for the sake of around 1,000 Filipinos living in the Middle Eastern country.
The President and the Russian Ambassador also discussed the drug war in the Philippines and the International Criminal Court, Roque cited.