Businesses feel the heat of Boracay shutdown

JUST as they were getting back on their feet after losses incurred at the start of the year, Islands Souvenirs must cope with another crisis—the six-month closure of Boracay Island.

Jonathan Jay Aldeguer, president and chief executive officer of The Islands Group, said five outlets of Islands Souvenirs will be temporarily closed as a result of Boracay’s closure starting on April 26.

This would mean revenue losses for six months and temporary migration of some of its employees to other store locations of Islands Souvenirs in Cebu.

“We will definitely be affected by the six-month closure, but I think it’s a necessary evil. I just hope that they execute efficiently and expeditiously with the proper infrastructure in place,” he said.

Islands Souvenirs Boracay is one of the top performers of the Islands Souvenirs’ chain of stores. It makes up 15 percent of the chain’s total sales.

Aldeguer assured they will take care of the affected employees, most of whom have been with them for years.

“All of them will be transferred to Cebu with a couple left behind to monitor progress,” he said.

Early this year, Islands Souvenirs incurred revenue losses after a big fire hit the Metro Department Store and Supermarket in Ayala Center Cebu. The fire paralyzed mall operations for 12 days.

Meanwhile, Wennie Sancho, secretary general of General Alliance of Workers Association (Gawa), said Thursday that they want an assurance from the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) and other agencies for the implementation of corresponding interventions, mainly livelihood.

Sancho reiterated that this “unfortunate” event will affect at least 17,000 registered workers in Boracay, on top of thousands of those in the informal sector.

“The government should have concrete measures before the scheduled closure on April 26,” he said, adding that “it involves the economic welfare of the workers and their family.

Gawa, along with other labor groups and unions in Western Visayas, earlier sent a resolution through the Presidential Action Center appealing to the President to hold in abeyance the planned closure of the island.

Sancho said they submitted the resolution, also signed by Philippine Agriculture Commercial and Industrial Workers Union (Paciwu) national president Hernane Braza, on March 6 but they received no response.

“No matter how we try to ask the President, we find that our voice is in the wilderness,” he added.

While it seems that the “presidential prerogative” is already irrevocable, the labor group still banks on other government agencies that can push for a staggered closure only.

Sancho said they hope the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Dole will convince the President to close Boracay in phases.

Sancho said the total closure would greatly hit the labor workforce, who are mostly coming from various provinces in the region, including Negros Occidental.

“We will highlight this Boracay issue during the Labor Day celebration on May 1,” he said, adding the labor sector will underscore whether there are really concrete measures taken by the government as regards its pronouncement on providing livelihood to displaced workers.

The temporary closure is seen as a short-term solution to address environmental woes hounding the island.

The DOT said it would work closely with Dole to address the livelihood concerns of locals as the island is rehabilitated.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said they are already looking into alternative means of livelihood and employment for the community.

Some P56 billion in tourist receipts are at stake with the restoration of the island. Boracay welcomed over two million local and foreign tourists last year.

DOT Western Visayas Director Helen Catalbas, in a previous report, said that most of the workers in the island are from other places like Cebu, Negros, Manila, and other provinces in Luzon.

The agency is also studying tax holidays and incentives for those businesses and employees affected. (with SunStar Philippines)
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