PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, March 20, said he would back the recommendation of the inter-agency task force on Boracay Island in a bid to address the environmental problems besetting the famous resort island.
In a speech delivered Tuesday night at the Manila Hotel, Duterte said he was amenable to the possible temporary closure of Boracay to pave way for its rehabilitation.
He said he told Local Government officer-in-charge Undersecretary Eduardo Año that he would support the closure of Boracay, even if it would "take a little bit longer."
"Boracay, he (Año) thinks, will take a little bit longer. And I answered him, I told him, "General, you're there, I placed you there. Whatever is your decision, I will support you. It's up to you. You just make the recommendation,'" Duterte said during the general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
"And if I find everything that is all right and in consonance with the (government's plan to rehabilitate Boracay), let's go with it. So do it. They ruined Boracay, it's not us," he added.
The inter-agency task force looking into ways to rehabilitate the island has recommended its complete shutdown for a maximum of one year.
Stakeholders under the Boracay United movement on Saturday, March 17, turned off their lights for eight minutes and gathered at the beach to raise the lights from their mobile phones as an appeal to the President not to completely shut down the island.
Read: Boracay to form chain of lights, appeal vs planned shutdown
Ma. Elena Tosco Brugger, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Boracay, said they were hoping that government would close the island in phases instead of a total shutdown.
The chamber, in a position paper, warned that around P56 billion in tourism receipts would be lost and over 17,000 workers would lose their jobs in case of a complete shutdown.
On Monday, March 19, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. gave assurance that there will be no "permanent closure" of Boracay.
Roque added that the President would be "fair" in making a decision, stressing that "whatever he does on Boracay is intended for the welfare of Boracay."
The President ordered the creation of the task force after he threatened on February 9 to close the island, which he had described as a cesspool because of its waste management and sewage woes.
The President gave the task force six months to come up with recommendations on how to rehabilitate the island. (SunStar Philippines)