(MENAFN - Gulf Times) The six-month closure and cleanup of the world-famous Boracay Island will affect 35,000 workers and result in P18bn to P20bn in losses, officials said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has heeded the recommendation by the interagency Boracay Task Force for a six-month closure of the beach destination, which has suffered from environmental woes.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr said in a news briefing that Duterte would declare a state of calamity in the island before the start of the closure on April 26.
A total of P2bn worth of calamity funds will be allotted to the displaced workers of legitimate businesses in the island, and not to any resort owners, Roque said.
The amount will come from the national and local governments, as well as the Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Labour and Employment (DoLE).
Some 35,000 workers in Boracay will be displaced during the closure, but not all are expected to suffer because a lot of jobs will be open in the island, Roque said.
Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello has offered work to 5,000 displaced workers, who will be paid minimum wage to 'do other work that they are used to doing.
Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing said losses for the full six months would reach P18bn to P20bn, in potential gross receipts.
'That's why it is not to the interest of everybody to go the full six months, he told reporters.
'We have to fast track everything, Densing added.
Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said the losses would be a 'bitter pill to swallow but were necessary if the country wanted to sustain and protect the once-pristine island.
'We want to bring it back to its paradise feel that we saw in the ‘80s. It may not be achieved, but we know that in doing this cleanup and rehab as ordered by the president, more people will come to Boracay we assure you about that. And it's just something that we have to do; it's a temporary setback but we will recover the glory days of Boracay, Alegre said.
Officials said a 'soft opening of the island may be possible in three to four months.
'We've been receiving volunteers outside of Boracay that they want to go into the island and help in the whole rehab process. So, if everybody comes into the picture, we can cut the process by at least two months, Densing said.
He said that in six months' time, half of the 948 illegal structures in the forest lands of Boracay would be dismantled.
Alegre said the six-month closure of Boracay would not be enough for the full rehabilitation of the island, but would be a 'good start.
'We're hoping that the 35,000 to 50,000 residents will also help us clean up and rehabilitate the island, Alegre added.
The DoT and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said they have not received any application for the building of a $500mn casino by Macau's Galaxy Entertainment and Philippines' Leisure and Resorts World Corporation.
Densing warned the local government officials of Malay in Aklan of possible cases if they issued local permits without clearance from the DENR.
Lawyers however are finalising the drafts of administrative and criminal charges against local government officials and individuals responsible for Boracay's problems.
'We will finish now our evidence gathering. We are finishing our case build up activity. Right now our lawyers are drafting a potential administrative case, most probably the best way is just to wait until we file. The target date is on or before April 14 which is the election ban, Densing said.
Duterte formed the interagency task force to oversee the rehabilitation of the island after calling it a 'cesspool in a speech on February 9.
Philippines Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific Air will stop carrying Boracay-bound tourists for a six-month period beginning late April because the closure of the island resort.
However, the two airline companies will continue to serve local residents and ensure continuity of commerce in the Northern Panay island, and maintain links between Boracay and Aklan province.
PAL has adjusted its operations in support of the government's decision to temporarily close or limit access to Boracay for urgent major environmental rehabilitation of the island.
Starting April 20, PAL will deploy additional flights on routes between Manila and Cebu, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa and Bacolod. Also on April 26, PAL will increase flights on the following routes between Cebu and Busuanga (Coron), Cebu and Siargao as well as between Clark and Busuanga.
It will also increase flights between Cebu and Clark on April 28, and between Manila and Dumaguete as well as Manila and Cagayan de Oro on May 1, respectively.
Affected Cebu Pacific flights are Manila-Caticlan-Manila, Cebu-Caticlan-Manila, Caticlan-Clark-Caticlan, Manila-Kalibo-Manila, Cebu-Kalibo-Cebu, Clark-Kalibo-Clark and Kalibo-Incheon-Kalibo.
In its advisory, Cebu Pacific said that despite its cancellation, which will also start on April 26, the budget airline would continue to operate flights for Kalibo and Caticlan to serve local residents.
Passengers of the affected Kalibo and Caticlan flights have the option to rebook, reroute or refund with penalties and charges waived.
'Boracay is a national treasure, PAL President Jaime
J Bautista said in a statement. 'We fully support the government's intention to make Boracay fully safe and environmentally friendly. Sustainable development is of critical concern, and we are one with the laudable goal to revert the island to a balanced eco-tourism paradise. We seek the understanding of our passengers as your flag carrier and the aviation industry to co-operate in this multi-sectoral endeavour. In the long-term, a safe and revitalised Boracay will benefit all stakeholders in the travel and tourism sectors, and the Filipino people as a whole.