Supreme Court asked to stop Boracay closure

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 25) — On the eve of Boracay's closure, two workers and a frequent visitor to the island asked the Supreme Court to stop the six-month shutdown.

Petitioners Mark Anthony Zabal and Thiting Jacosalem, workers in the island, and frequent visitor Odon Bandiola said the closure would violate the constitutional right to travel.

They said the right to travel may be restricted only if there is a law restricting it and the restriction is based on national security, public safety, or public health.

The document named President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and Interior Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año as respondents to the complaint.

The petition was filed in the wake of Boracay's closure for up to six months for clean-up and rehabilitation, beginning April 26. The shutdown was only confirmed three weeks before the date.

It also said Duterte violated the principle of separation of powers, as "the Constitution does not give the President power to restrict the movement of people within the country."

While the administration maintains the closure is an exercise of police power to rehabilitate the island, the petitioners said this "lacks basis."

"Police power is exercised through legislative bodies. It is the plenary power vested in the legislature to make statutes and ordinances to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order or safety and general welfare of the people," the petition read.

It added the respondents do not possess law-making powers.

"Despite holding the highest position in the land, President Duterte simply cannot, under our system of law, arrogate unto himself a power which the Constitution does not give him," it said.

Lastly, the petition stated Boracay's closure violates the right to due process of the petitioners, tourists, and non-residents.

"Respondents should not be allowed to enforce the ban against tourists and non-residents. Their actions would be in excess of their authority under the 1987 Constitution and the law, an abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and a violation of the petitioners' constitutional rights," it read.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the state has inherent police power to close Boracay to protect its environment.

"While the President respects the Court, we see absolutely no merit for any private party to restrain the closure of Boracay to tourists given that SC itself has previously ruled that Boracay is owned primarily by the state," Roque said.

Earlier, Malacañang said a decision on declaring Boracay under a state of calamity would be released on April 26 - the beginning of the closure period.

According to officials, a state of calamity could be declared in the Barangays of Balabag, Manoc-Manoc, and Yapak - which comprise Boracay - in the town of Malay, Aklan province. Boracay is more than 300 kilometers south of Manila in Western Visayas.

An executive order or proclamation on the state of calamity will serve as legal basis for the shutdown. It is also expected to fast-track procurement as the island fixes its drainage system.