Businessmen appeal Boracay shutdown: 36,000 jobs at stake

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — Boracay tourism stakeholders want to talk to President Rodrigo Duterte to appeal the planned island shutdown.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jojo Clemente on Thursday said businesses are ready to help the government clean up Boracay without closing down their establishments.

He warned some 36,000 people may lose their jobs if Boracay is declared off-limits.

"Mr. President, if possible, we would like to sit down with you just to present our side. We are respectfully requesting that you reconsider and the inter-agency may reconsider the plan of the improvement of Boracay," Clemente said in a media briefing.

Clemente said they are still waiting for government's specific plans on Boracay even after a dialogue with Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo earlier this week.

He said they're still clueless whether it would be a total shutdown or partial closure of the island.

"The actual timeline as we were informed was no later than March 26, the President will declare a state of calamity for Boracay and 30 days hence, they will implement the closure. What that closure means, we're not yet sure," he said.

The Environment, Tourism and Interior departments has recommended the total closure of Boracay after assessing the island's condition. Duterte has yet to issue orders, but he earlier said he will support whatever recommendation will be made by Interior Undersecretary and Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año regarding the island. The President said Año told him it might take about six months to rehabilitate the island.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Thursday, Interior Undersecretary Epimacio Densing said the inter-agency council formed to rehabilitate Boracay will recommend the closure of the island ‪on April 26.‬ 

The closure may last for as long as six months, he said.

However, he said it would only prohibit foreign and local tourists in the island — not shut down businesses with permits. Businesses can also continue to stay open for renovation or rehabilitation during the timeframe.

"We're looking at the people who will be losing their jobs or losing their earnings. That's why we're coordinating with other agencies, specifically DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), and the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) to provide us the loan assistance and the assistance to be given to these people who will be losing earnings,” he said.

If the government proceeds with a total closure, Clemente hopes this will happen in 2019 as foreign and local tourists have already booked their trips until the end of the year.

For now, he said business establishments are willing to clean their areas and make sure others comply with environmental laws as well.

"On the side of tour operators, let us just finish our bookings one year forward and we can stop selling already by tomorrow," Clemente said.

Stakeholders also said they want to revive Boracay's natural features but they want to partner with government in doing this instead of just waiting for the shutdown to take its course.