AMID apprehensions over possible workers’ displacement, the labor sector in Western Visayas is appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to hold in abeyance the plan to close Boracay Island in Aklan to address environmental woes hounding the region’s top tourist destination.
Wennie Sancho, secretary-general of General Alliance of Workers Association (Gawa), on Wednesday said the group is drafting a resolution asking the President to reconsider the planned closure which may affect almost 19,000 workers in the island.
Of the figure, 17,735 are registered workers and the remaining number comprises those in the informal sector like transportation and micro scale enterprise, he said.
Sancho said the appeal, also spearheaded by the Philippine Agricultural, Commercial, and Industrial Workers Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (Paciwu-TUCP), was supported by other labor leaders in Western Visayas, who attended the wage consultation in Bacolod City yesterday.
“We fear that there will be job displacement and economic dislocation if the closure will push through,” he said. “What will happen to these thousands of workers and their families?”
Duterte had earlier warned to close the island if environmental problems there are not resolved in six months.
On Monday, the Department of Tourism (DOT) temporarily stopped the processing of new and expiring accreditation certificates of establishments in the island which are not complying with environmental laws.
Sancho, also a labor representative to the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB)-Western Visayas, said they will submit the said resolution to the Office of the President as soon as possible.
They are also submitting it to the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Western Visayas to solicit support in endorsing the same to the President.
The labor leader asserted that those establishments violated the law should be punished, but those complying should be spared.
“We are making this appeal to prevent the irreparable damage that would take place if Boracay should be closed,” he said, adding that it may also create havoc on the economic well-being of the workers.
DOT-Western Visayas Director Helen Catalbas had earlier said most of the workers at the island are from other places like Negros, Cebu, Manila and other provinces in Luzon.
“We will soon start coordinating with local government units in the region as to how many can they absorb if in case establishments in Boracay will lay off employees,” she added.
Department of Labor and Employment (Dole)-Western Visayas Director Johnson Cañete supported the claim of labor sector that at there are about 17,000 workers in Boracay, based on the data obtained by the agency from the Public Employment Service Office of Malay, Aklan.
Cañete said that if the closure would be this “drastic” then the unemployment rate in the region would surely increase.
He said the agency can extend assistance to displaced Boracay employees.
These are profiling of the workers through a quick response team, facilitating employment in other provinces under other tourism and hotel management services, allowing workers to group themselves and providing them livelihood and emergency employment for 10 to 30 days.
“Though it may result to job displacement, we still have to abide by the decision of the President,” Cañete said, adding that it’s good that environmental issues are being addressed to also ensure sustainability of resources.
For workers’ protection, Cañete pointed out the need to set standards in closing establishments at the island to avoid total employment displacement.
“Those in the verge of complying can be given more time to comply while those blatantly violating laws should be given outright punishments,” he added.