STARTING at 12:01 a.m. today, the world-renowned Boracay Island is officially closed to tourists and businesses, with security officials assuring that all preparations are in place to protect the area, and workers tasked to do repair and rehabilitation for the next six months.
Police Regional Office 6 director Chief Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag said they are in full control of the situation in the island, where more than 600 policemen and soldiers have been deployed as part of the security measures during its temporary closure to non-residents and tourists.
“I had a meeting with the Regional Peace and Order Council and I was told that financial assistance will be given to affected residents. Although we would be exercising maximum tolerance in the area, we expect less resistance there,” said Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde.
Yesterday, the PNP held a security drill in the island aimed at testing the government’s capability to respond to any threats. Under the supervision of PNP Deputy Chief for Operations Deputy Director General Fernando Mendez Jr., members of the Boracay Task Force, the military, Coast Guard and the local government demonstrated how prepared they are in making Boracay visitors safe from any security threats.
During the drill, security forces simulated responses to emergency situations such as violent rallies, kidnapping and hostage-taking situation that may happen during the six-month closure of Boracay.
Mendez said they conducted the drill to assure local residents and tourists that the government is fully prepared to deal with any emergency situation in the island.
Mendez also said that the deployment of additional forces in Boracay would ensure that both the national and local government will be peaceful.
Albayalde also allayed fears that police may sleep in island hotels during the closure of Boracay.
The PNP chief said that his men will be provided their own billeting areas in the island and won’t touch the hotels and establishments during the six-month period. “We are warning them (police) not to sleep in hotels to be closed during the period. We won’t allow that,” he said.
SC ASKED TO STOP CLOSURE OF WORLD-RENOWNED ISLAND
THE Supreme Court was asked yesterday to stop the closure of world-renowned Boracay Island.
Accompanied by the National Union of People’s Lawyers, residents and tourists filed a petition for prohibition and mandamus challenging the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s closure order.
They also sought the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction and/or a status quo ante order.
Named respondents in the petition were President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
The famous tourist destination will be closed to the public starting today.
In their appeal, the petitioners described the closure as “patent abuse of power and reckless disregard of the law.”
According to them, respondents acted with grave abuse of discretion that violated their rights to travel and to due process of law.
“Liberty under that clause includes the right to choose one’s residence, to leave it whenever he pleases, and to travel wherever he wills,” they said, quoting retired SC Justice Isagani Cruz.
The petitioners said the right to travel could only be restricted if it involves national security, public safety or public health.
“There is no national security, public safety or public health situation calling for the curtailment of the right to travel,” the petition said.
Furthermore, the petitioners lamented the absence of any law or order calling for Boracay’s closure.
ONLY TRO COULD STOP BORACAY CLOSURE — ROQUE
MALACAÑANG yesterday said that the closure of Boracay to tourists for six months beginning today would proceed unless a stay order is issued by the Supreme Court.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after three individuals challenged President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to close the famous tourist destination.
The petitioners said Duterte acted without authority by issuing the order deemed legislative in nature.
“While the President respects the Court, we see absolutely no merit for any private party to restrain the closure of Boracay to tourists given that the SC itself had previously ruled that Boracay is owned primarily by the state,” Roque said.
“Unless a TRO (temporary restraining order) is issued, the planned closure of Boracay to tourists, shall proceed,” he said.
DILG TO PROBE BORACAY ID SCAM
MALACAÑANG yesterday said that the Interior Department would not let unscrupulous individuals take advantage of the shutdown of Boracay.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement following Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s allegations that barangay officials were extorting money from local businesses in exchange for identification cards for non-residents.
“I’m sure the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) will look into this. Believe me, Secretary (Eduardo) Año will not tolerate this if this can be proven,” Roque said.
Lacson had alleged that some barangay officials in Boracay were asking for as much as P400,000 from local businesses in exchange for granting IDs to their non-resident employees.
The police said barangay officials could only issue a barangay clearance, community tax certificate or cedula, and a barangay ID for bonafide Boracay residents. These documents only cost P500.
The police and the local government of Malay, Aklan are gearing up for the 6-month closure of Boracay that starts today.
During the 6-month closure, only residents bearing a valid government ID indicating their address would be allowed to enter.
Government officials said the island’s sewerage system and road networks have to be improved and its wetlands and forestlands recovered before the popular tourist destination could be reopened.
With Hector Lawas and Efren Montano