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Government must protect Boracay’s informal sector workers

BORACAY ISLAND, AKLAN, Philippines – Foreign tourists, along with their local diving guides, walk past a metal sewerage pipe on Bulabog Beach, Sept 2013 file image. Some 18,000 laborers stand to be affected with Boracay Island’s temporary closure for rehabilitation, prompting Senator Win Gatchalian to urge the government to launch financial assistance and livelihood programs for them. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian on Monday urged the government to launch emergency financial assistance and livelihood programs to compensate workers in the informal sector for lost wages expected during the six-month closure of Boracay Island, which takes effect this week.

The senator estimates that more than 6,000 workers employed in the informal sector of Boracay Island and the surrounding municipality of Malay, Aklan, will be affected by the closure order.

“Our estimates show that informal sector laborers employed on and around Boracay Island could lose as much as P166 million in wages over the next six months. The government needs to put programs in place to ensure that every centavo of these losses will be compensated,” said Gatchalian, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.

“Informal sector workers will be particularly vulnerable during the closure period because it will be much more difficult to identify them and provide the necessary public aid,” he explained as he urged the Department of Labor and Employment to put strategies in place to serve the needs of the informal sector.

Gatchalian stressed the need to fast-track the implementation of a mix of cash-for-work programs, cash transfers, and other social welfare measures before Boracay’s vibrant tourism-based economy comes to a grinding halt on April 26.

“Boracay’s small-time laborers are not to blame for the environmental mess on the island, and they should not be made to suffer the consequences of the reckless illegal behavior of careless big businesses,” he said.