ILOILO City – In April this year, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte placed Boracay Island under state of calamity through Proclamation 475 resulting to the closure of thousands of businesses and livelihood opportunities for the people. The island was closed to foreign and local tourists for the first time incurring great loss to the nation’s tourism revenue of 20% or roughly Php56 billion.
As a result, anxiety, restlessness and hunger haunted more than 50,000 residents and workers of the island. Under such circumstances, humanitarian missions are supposedly a must to aid the hungry victims. But truth be told, government agencies are sadly the first to block efforts of victims to feed themselves.
BLOCKING HUMANITARIAN MISSIONS
Victims of the closure and their advocates trooped today to the regional offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) lambasting them of blocking humanitarian missions.
“What crime have we committed to suffer such pain and rejection when we ourselves are trying to ease the hunger we are suffering for months due to the arbitrary closure of the island?” said Olive Abañera, spokesperson of We Are Boracay, an alliance of residents and workers.
We Are Boracay together with its partners Rise Up Aklan and Friends of Boracay, heading the team of a humanitarian mission were blocked for the second time this last July 28-29 by the Boracay Security Committee operationalized by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force.
The letter signed by DILG Regional Office VI Director Atty. Anthony C. Nuyda indicated that necessary information in the letter sent by the organizers of the humanitarian mission are lacking.
“In particular, the members of the Boracay Security Committee are requesting the exact location where the goods will be distributed and the total number, names and addresses of supposed beneficiaries,” Nuyda noted in the letter.
ARBITRARY RULES ON ENTRY
But Rise Up Aklan immediately dismissed as “arbitrary and absurd” the information wanted by the committee.
“For so many humanitarian missions we have conducted from the time of super typhoon Yolanda and from humanitarian missions 1 and 2 in Boracay, these requirements were not asked and no longer needed. These specifications, which only surfaced during our humanitarian mission 4 clearly indicates the arbitrariness on the rules being implemented by the security committee,” said Kim-Sin Tugna, the group’s coordinator.
“We condemn the blockade and we hold the DILG and the DSWD, as part of the Boracay Inter-agency Task Force, accountable of causing further anxiety and hunger to the people of Boracay by blocking the humanitarian mission. The task force must be investigated immediately,” Tugna added.
Rise Up Aklan has been in partnership with DSWD in the delivery of goods and services after super typhoon Yolanda hit the province in 2013. These include the implementation of emergency shelter assistance and even up to now in the implementation of presidential financial assistance.
“We were expecting an even smoother partnership but it surprised us when DSWD Regional Director Rebecca Geamala denied us of our partnership with them in helping the victims of the closure,” said Tugna.
In the third humanitarian mission, Tugna’s name was already singled-out by Aklan Provincial Police Director and Tabon Port ground commander Ramil Gallardo.
“WE ARE STARVING”
“We are already starving. What the DSWD could do is ease that but it seems they want us to go hungry and maybe die in the island. The food packs they have distributed were even spoiled and rotten,” said Abañera.
The regional DSWD have already distributed 2,760 family packs last June. Residents are still waiting for the 50,000 food packs the agency has promised even before the closure was implemented.
The sustainable livelihood program of the agency is also limited, according to the residents.
“We demand the DSWD to immediately release the food packs and include everyone in the sustainable livelihood program. Boracay must be open up immediately,” Abañera said.
The groups are expecting the Committee of Natural Resources of both the House of Representatives and Senate to look into the matter and implement corrective measures./www.panaytoday.net