AKLAN, Philippines – For some residents, a few-hundred-pesos-a-day wage is better than nothing, as more establishments close shops.
On the second day that Boracay Island was closed to tourists, hundreds of residents affected by the closure flocked to government centers on Thursday, April 27, to ask for assistance.
At Manoc-Manoc plaza, men and women from Boracay's villages of Manoc-Manoc, Yapac, and Balabag waited to be hired by the Department of Labor and Employment. By Saturday, they will be cleaners earning P323 per day for the next 30 days.
For Marilyn Benito, a former masseuse at the top tourist destination's beachfront, the job offered by the labor department is "better" than having none at all.
"We don't have jobs anymore that's why I'm applying here at DOLE. We were told that we will be street sweepers but I guess that's better than earning nothing," Benito told Rappler in Filipino.
Benito, who grew up in Boracay, had been a masseuse along the island resort's shores in the last 30 years. She said that she could've been earning P2,000 per day this season.
"When it's peak season, we earn P2,000. When it closed yesterday, we earned nothing – as in nothing. It's a big drop in earnings," she added.
According to DOLE, more than 1,000 workers have been hired since they started hiring. A total of 17,735 workers from hotels and restaurants and 2,005 informal sector workers are affected by the closure.
The labor department earlier said that they will be hiring only 5,000 of the total affected workers. But workers who have completed the 30-day work will no longer be hired again by DOLE.
Aside from DOLE, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is also hiring locals for road clearing operations.
According to DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, they brought in 150 workers around the Western Visayas region but also hired about 40 workers from Boracay.
Meanwhile, the line at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) operational center had spilled over the road across Boracay Tropics Hotel as early as 9 am.
Residents who opt to go back to their home provinces will be assisted by the DSWD with transportation allowances after going through interviews. The request for assistance can range up to P5,000 depending on the circumstance.
According to DSWD, a total of P2.4 million has been disbursed to some 1,300 displaced workers during the first day of the closure on Wednesday, April 26. (READ: 'Gov't assistance during Boracay closure not enough' – residents)
DSWD Secretary Emmanuel Leyco also said in a media interview on Wednesday that they will be implementing cash-for-work and a Sustainable Livelihood Program in the coming days.
No clear job plans?
The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa hit the Duterte administration for not having a clear program for displaced workers in the island resort.
"The national government should have sat down with the local development council to craft such rehabilitation plan, ensuring that alternatives had been duly explored. Such plan could also have been done in phases," Daniel Edralin, Sentro's vice chairperson said on Wednesday.
Edralin pointed that such closure should have guarantees for displaced workers.
"And if [a] wholesale closure is deemed really appropriate, the 36,000 workers or more, and their families should have guaranteed jobs or compensation for the whole duration," he added.
On Thursday, Boracay was officially closed to the public, after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered it due to environmental problems. (READ: INSIDE STORY: How Duterte decided on Boracay closure)
With no master plan for the Boracay rehabilitation project, Duterte approved the recommendation of the environment, interior, and tourism departments to close Boracay to tourists for a maximum of 6 months.