With the recent reopening of Boracay to the public, the scientist group AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People says that further commercialization and privatization of the island are hiding behind the guise of DENR’s six month environmental rehabilitation, to the detriment of small local business owners, workers, and residents.
In the April of this year, Duterte ordered the immediate closure of Boracay after declaring the island a “cesspool” that needs intensive rehabilitation measures. And during the six month rehabilitation period, the Duterte administration promised financial assistance for the displaced workers and residents, alternative jobs, no demolition in the wetlands without proper relocation, and that the closure will only last six months.
However, data from local people’s organizations such as We Are Boracay, Rise Up Aklan, and Friends of Boracay reveals that such plans were poorly executed and that it has only aggravated their already difficult living situation.
Some locals availed of the government’s Sustainable Livelihood Program amounting to Php 15,000 and the 30-day Cash For Work Program amounting to Php 9,000. But with the skyrocketing prices nowadays, these are clearly short term solutions that cannot even sustain a family’s daily living expenses for a month.
“It is clear that from the start, the Duterte administration’s rehabilitation of Boracay was poorly thought out. Aside from the absence of a transparent, scientifically sound and comprehensive rehabilitation plan to address the environmental degradation, the rehabilitation clearly is not centered on the welfare of the Filipino people affected by the closure,” said Krista Melgarejo, AGHAM Diliman’s deputy secretary general and resident marine science consultant.
News sources have cited that with the reopening of Boracay, the government has imposed “stricter” guidelines where it will only allow 19,200 tourists to enter the island per day.
“While it is true that Boracay hosts a large number of people beyond its carrying capacity prior to the rehabilitation, what we fail to see on the surface level is that this limit prioritizes tourists over the locals of the island. This type of prioritization will only make environmental degradation a recurring problem for Boracay,” she added.
Last month, DENR chief Cimatu said that the 15,000 workers of the island should be booted out so that Boracay does not go beyond its carrying capacity.
DENR also announced last August that it has partnered up with several companies such as Aboitiz and San Miguel Corporation for their “Adopt a Wetland” program as part of the rehabilitation plan. Ironically, such companies are also involved in other projects that causes environmental destruction such as the upcoming Aerotropolis reclamation project planned in Bulacan which is funded by the latter.
According to the scientist group, the Duterte administration’s plans and decisions for Boracay should make us question whom the rehabilitation is really for. News outlets have also reported that the government also plans to rehabilitate other tourist hotspots across the country.
“If we really want to save what’s left of our natural resources, the government should not put private interests above people’s interests. It should involve local scientists and experts and the local residents in coming up and implementing effective solutions in going about it. Because if the government continues with its flawed framework, environmental degradation will only be a recurring problem and will only worsen the lives of the Filipino people,” she ended.###