By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz, Hannah Torregoza and Dhel Nazario
The regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Western Visayas has available standby funds for disaster operations worth P6.2 million to assist families that will be affected by the impending closure of Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan.
DSWD-Western Visayas also maintains a stockpile of 30,000 family food packs which can be downloaded to local government units (LGUs) as augmentation support if they find it necessary.
Last week, the regional office convened a meeting with representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Information Agency, Office of Civil Defense, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Army to discuss measures on how to effectively assist families who were given notices to vacate their houses.
Based on the initial report from the region, 28 households were given notices to vacate. Of the given number, 15 families are under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
DSWD OIC Secretary Emmanuel Leyco assured the families that will be affected that its regional office headed by Regional Director Rebecca Geamala, has already prepositioned relief items in strategic locations in Aklan which can be augmented to affected LGUs.
“We continue our efforts to determine the needs of informal settler families in need of relocation and initial assistance. Our social workers are closely monitoring the situation in the affected barangays and our officials are in constant coordination with the LGUs which are the primary responders to see if they need any augmentation assistance,” Leyco said.
“We want to get a firm understanding of the situation on the ground so that the preparations to help those who will be affected by Boracay’s six-month closure and the impending demolition will be adequate and sufficient,” he added.
Leyco also confirmed that a One-Stop-Shop Operation Center will be established in Boracay as an improvement on the existing DSWD operation center which opened last April 7.
“We are aware that the programs and services of the DSWD are not enough to accommodate all the needs of the people who will be affected, and this is the reason why we established the One-Stop-Shop so that there will be a venue for convergence of all the efforts of different government agencies, especially when it comes to health, employment, education, and other needs of the communities,” he said.
“The agencies of the national government are working together to pool resources and program to help the families and communities that will be affected,” he added.
Aside from the One-Stop-Shop, the regional office reported that there will be 150 staff members who will validate the list of affected households and that its quick response team has already been reactivated for the temporary shutdown of the island.
Where is the masterplan?
Senate committee on tourism chief Senator Nancy Binay on Monday expressed hope that the planned rehabilitation of Boracay island would wind-up in less than six months to enable affected workers and residents in the popular tourist destination to immediately resume their livelihood.
Binay lamented that the Department of Tourism (DOT) and other concerned agencies seem to be withholding the master plan for the island’s rehabilitation, saying it is important for stakeholders to be informed of the government’s timetable.
The senator said she hopes that the scheduled workshop today, April 17, to be attended by more than 100 workers and stakeholders in the island, would enlighten the workers who are curious to know how the government intends to distribute the P2-billion financial assistance for displaced workers.
“Baka may pagkukulang lang din sa pagdi-disclose? Kasi hanggang ngayon, hindi pa nila napapagusapan idi-distribute yung P2-billion na tulong para dun sa mga mawawalan ng trabaho. I guess baka kulang lang dun sa pag release ng information (Maybe they lacked proper disclosure? Because until now they have not yet discussed how they intend to distribute the P2-billion assistance for those who stand to lose their jobs. I guess they are a bit remiss in releasing such essential information),” Binay told reporters in an interview.
Nevertheless, she said Binay hopes that all agencies participating in the rehabilitation of the island would be able to present their respective timetable for Boracay.
“I think it would be better if the other agencies would release their timetables. For instance, they can indicate in their timetable what they intend to finish in the first week, then their set activity for the second week,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, officials and employees of the TESDA Provincial Office in Aklan were ordered by TESDA Director General Guiling Mamondiong to create a contingency plan which will assist the 73,522 affected residents, including 17,326 registered employees and 11,000 unregistered workers of Boracay Island.
According to Joel M. Villagracia, TESDA Provincial Director of Aklan, TESDA will offer free skills training to the affected workers and residents.
Under the Action Plan Save Boracay, the first training will be from April 26 to June 30. Enrolment for the second round of training will start on June 15 while classes will be from July 1 to Sept. Sept. 30.