By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
The Philippines’ president moved Thursday to give economic relief to Boracay island, a tourist hotspot under mandated closure for six months due to growing pains, including an overstressed sewage system.
Rodrigo Duterte proclaimed a “state of calamity” to allow government officials to tap emergency funds for needed repair and impose a price freeze on basic commodities.
The government is also considering the release of 2 billion Philippines pesos ($38.46 million) in funds to assist workers and locals hurt by the closure.
“The continuous rise of tourist arrivals, the insufficient sewer and waste management system, and environmental violations of establishments aggravate the environmental degradation and destroy the ecological balance of the Island of Boracay, resulting in major damage to property and natural resources, as well as the disruption of the normal way of life of the people therein,” said the proclamation.
Boracay island, located in the Central Philippines, is a renowned tourist destination, but was recently described by Duterte as a “cesspool.”
The proclamation emphasized the urgency to address human-induced hazards and to rehabilitate the island in order to ensure its sustainability and prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem.
The closure is set to affect more than 30,000 workers, who complained about uncertainty during the shutdown and limited job opportunities.
The move is likely to dent the Philippines' economy by around 1.96 billion Philippines pesos ($37.69 million), according to the country's chief economist, Ernesto Pernia.