‘State of calamity’ may save Boracay
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte warned the courts not to interfere should he declare Boracay under a state of calamity to allow the government to hasten its rehabilitation.
The warning comes after he issued an ultimatum to local officials to clean up Boracay within six months or he would declare a state of calamity over the world-famous resort destination.
“I would caution the courts not to interfere by issuing temporary restraining order because you would just exacerbate the situation,” Duterte said.
The President had earlier ordered Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año to solve the beach island’s environmental problems within six months.
“If not done within the six-month period, I would be declaring a state of calamity in Boracay,” he said. “I am invoking it. I can order this thing to happen because it’s in the public interest, public safety and public health,” Duterte said.
In a speech during the oathtaking of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission at the Palace, Duterte said placing the island under a state of calamity would allow the government to extend assistance to those who are displaced financially.
At the same time, Duterte urged the public to work together with the government in the cleanup of the island.
Last month, the President described the island as a cesspool and ordered Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to clean it up.
In the Senate, the chairman of the committee on the environment, Senator Cynthia Villar opposed the closure of Boracay, but said she supported the President’s plan to declare a state of calamity on the island.
She also said her family’s ownership of two hotels on the island did not affect her position that only those who violated environmental laws should be shut down.
She added that a state of calamity would enable the government to move faster in dealing with the island’s environmental problems.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, meanwhile, said he supported the plan of Interior Secretary Año and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo to temporarily close Boracay Island to tourists during its rehabilitation.
“It is only logical to close Boracay for renovations, so to speak. We must carefully assess the damage to the local environment and take the necessary steps for the cleanup,” Pimentel said.
He said the process is more easily done and more effective if there are no tourists around.
The proposal of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Tourism is to close down the world-famous island from June 1 to July 31.
“I understand the difficulties of closing the island for two months, but it is only temporary. It will be good in the long run for all stakeholders, including the tourists who are there for the natural beauty of the island,” said Pimentel.
The Senate leader noted that closing tourist destinations to preserve them is nothing new, as Thailand closed Koh Tachai island in May 2016 for similar reasons.
The Senate held an inquiry in the island on Friday to investigate the environmental concerns.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday told local officials to “be prepared for increased garbage this summer.” “Local government officials should amplify their measures in managing wastes particularly in tourism sites as we expect an increased volume of garbage with the arrival of tourists this summer season,” Cimatu said. With Rio N. Araja
Local governments must put more trash bins in tourist sites to encourage proper waste disposal, he added.
He called on tourists to be responsible for their wastes and avoid littering, especially along the shorelines and in the waters.
“We do not want the same situation in Boracay Island to happen to other vacation sites. Local government units should be keen in monitoring waste issues in their areas of jurisdiction. Segregation activities should be strictly implemented. Tourists should also throw their garbage only in designated trash bins,” he advised.