MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday, June 3, that the 6-month closure of Boracay is not meant to benefit the rich.
Before he left for an official visit to South Korea past midnight on Sunday, Duterte talked about the government's rehabilitation of Boracay while discussing environmental issues.
"You know, I did not spend money [of the] government just to accommodate iyong mga mayayaman (the rich). It is not for them," said the President.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had said that the government will have to spend P1.36 billion to rehabilitate the island.
Duterte reiterated his plan to give land in Boracay to farmers under the agrarian reform program. (READ: 400 hectares in Boracay up for agrarian reform 'if Duterte says so')
"So ibigay ko na iyan [lupa] sa mga tao for agriculture purpose. Kung hindi, kukunin ng mga may pera iyan, gawan nila iyan ng resort (I will give the land to the people for agricultural purposes. If not, the rich will take them, and they will build resorts.)," he said
Duterte also said he will "most respectfully ask Congress to reserve a strip" on the island for commercial purposes. "Tutal ang commercial diyan, iyon lang namang dagat eh, iyong puting sand diyan. Sa likod wala na eh (Besides, the commercial areas there are only those along the shore, the white sand. Behind that, there's none)."
The President ordered the closure of the world-famous tourist destination for a maximum of 6 months starting April 26 to rehabilitate the island, address garbage and sewage woes, and the violations of environment laws and ordinances by establishments there.
Duterte said he would "not clean up Boracay" just to have residential areas "spoil everything again."
'We Are Boracay'
Meanwhile, an alliance of workers and residents affected by the shutdown of Boracay Island appealed to the government to consider the negative impact of the temporary closure on people who have lived and worked there.
The group, which called itself "We are Boracay," is an alliance of workers and residents affected by the 6-month shutdown of Boracay after President Rodrigo Duterte placed the 3 barangays of Yapak, Manoc-Manoc, and Balabag under a state of calamity.
The group aired their sentiments during a hearing of the House committee on natural resources chaired by Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers Association Representative Arnel Uy in Boracay on June 1.
In a statement, the alliance urged the House panel to help them persuade the government to stop the closure and demolition of homes, and ensure onsite relocation to prevent dislocation from livelihood and employment.
“Residents should be consulted for concerns that directly affect them. It seems the rehabilitation also drives away the workers and residents,” the group added.
The group also lamented the continued deployment of security forces in the ongoing clean-up and rehabilitation of the island.
The Philippines stands to lose P1.96 billion with the closure of Boracay, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier said. – Michael Bueza, with reports from Boy Ryan Zabal/Rappler.com