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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Loren Legarda on Thursday, April 5, urged government agencies to provide assistance to workers who will be affected by the looming closure of Boracay.
Legarda pointed out that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has a budget of P2.3 billion for 2018 under the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced (Tupad) Workers Program. DOLE said a total of 17,735 workers will be affected by the closure.
“We increased the funding for DOLE’s Tupad Workers Program because it helps cushion the effects of unemployment, especially for laid-off or retrenched workers, as well as for self-employed workers whose livelihoods have been damaged by disasters and other crises, such as the impending temporary closure of Boracay,” said Legarda, who also chairs the Senate committee on finance.
On Wednesday, April 4, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay starting April 26, saying he wants “funds to be devoted to assisting residents” whose livelihoods will be affected.
Legarda said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) could also provide aid through its cash-for-work program. (READ: CHEAT SHEET: What to expect from Boracay closure)
“I hope that this is part of the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) recovery plan for Boracay. It would be best to assess who among those who will be displaced can be hired as workers to carry out the rehabilitation plan,” the senator said.
Legarda also called for business establishments’ full cooperation to speed up the rehabilitation of the island.
Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva said the government should first put in place a concrete plan for workers.
He also pointed out that calamity funds won’t be able to cover the rehabilitation needs should the President declare a state of calamity, so an additional budget should be allocated.
“Regardless of the length of shutdown, there is a disruption [of] livelihood,” Villanueva added.
Livelihoods at stake
In a phone interview on Thursday, Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod said DOLE has already completed profiling of workers who will be affected by the closure.
“We started profiling in February to be prepared in the event that the closure happens. Rest assured that livelihood programs – such as the Tupad program – will be implemented,” Maglunsod said in a mix of English and Filipino.
However, an infrastructure think tank noted that DOLE’s Tupad program should be able to match the existing wages of workers in the island.
“DOLE’s Tupad program should be implemented for Boracay as well, but it should be able to approximate the existing wages and salaries of the affected service and informal workers,” said Terry Ridon, convenor of InfraWatchPH.
Back in February, Duterte announced his intention to “close” Boracay, saying that the popular tourist destination has turned into a “cesspool.”
But stakeholders argued that closing the island for a year would take away jobs of some 36,000 people and would mean major revenue losses.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), however, said a 6-month closure of the tourist area would have minimal impact on the economy. – Rappler.com
Boracay image via Shutterstock