AKLAN, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rehabilitation work will proceed as planned on Boracay island, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar said on Thursday, April 26, the first day of the tourist destination's 6-month closure.
Demolition work started even before President Rodrigo Duterte signed any document as legal basis for his verbal orders to close the world-famous tourist destination for 6 months, and after national officials criticized Malay Mayor Ceciron Cawaling for not cooperating to allow the rehabilitation work to start.
However, Villar told reporters, “The signing is ongoing as we speak.”
He said demolition was ongoing as well, with some residents and business owners demolishing parts of their homes and establishments that encroached on the government's 12-meter widening plan along major roads.
While Villar was inspecting public works along Boracay’s main road, Cawaling was in a meeting with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores to discuss the national government’s request for Cawaling to sign the demolition order.
In the afternoon, the President finally declared a state of calamity in the area to authorize the use of emergency funds to help displaced workers and families affected by the closure.
There was no official statement yet from Malay Mayor Cawaling.
On Wednesday, April 25, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III called out Mayor Cawaling for “stalling” rehabilitation works on the eve of the closure.
“By all means, he (Cawaling) has to cooperate. We don't want the rehabilitation to be held hostage just by one or two officials," Densing said on Wednesday.
The national government sought the help of the Malay local government so that operations could proceed as scheduled, given that Malacañang had yet to sign a public order authorizing the closure.
The public works secretary said that after clearing operations, they can proceed with road construction. He said that they are hoping to finish all public works construction within 6 months.
According to Villar, they would ask for some P500 million to augment their funds to be used during the rehabilitation of the island.
The DPWH has deployed 150 workers from district offices in Western Visayas.
The state of calamity order signed by Duterte would allow government agencies to access the P19.8-billion national calamity fund, P2 billion of which Duterte promised to allocate for Boracay rehabiliation.
Before this, government agencies involved in the rehabilitation work were using their regular budget to fund operations in Boracay.
In March, President Rodrigo Duterte announced he wanted to shut down Boracay because the once-pristine destination had become a "cesspool" due to environmental problems.
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.