Philippine Daily Inquirer
COPS STOP VOLUNTEERS FROM GIVING FOOD, OTHER AID TO BORACAY RESIDENTS
ILOILO CITY— Authorities on Saturday barred a group of volunteers from distributing food and other assistance to residents of Boracay despite appeals for help from thousands of people who lost their livelihood because of the closure of the world-famous resort island to tourist traffic.
Policemen at the Tabon port in Malay town in Aklan blocked 29 members of the group, including teachers, students and scientists from private organizations in Manila and Western Visayas, from sailing to Boracay.
Repeated calls and text messages by the Inquirer to officials of the Metro Boracay Police Task Force for comment went unanswered.
Supt. Ramir Gallardo, commander of the police unit at the Tabon port, said the group was not allowed to go to Boracay because it had no clearance from the security committee supervising access to the island.
He said the police received a letter from the group on June 27 requesting access to the island but he did not have information about what action was taken by the committee, which is com- posed of representatives from the Philippine National Police, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the local government of Malay.
The volunteers are part of a humanitarian mission scheduled for June 29 to July 2 and or- ganized by support groups Friends of Boracay, Rise Up Aklan and We Are Boracay.
They also include volunteers who had previously distributed rice and school supplies to residents of the island, along with Bloomfield Integrat- ed Academy, Boracay Christian Church and Boracay Island Global Academy.
President Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay to tourists and nonresidents for six months starting April 26 to make way for the island’s rehabilitation.
Only workers and nonresidents with special permits are allowed on the island. Various groups and several residents have protested the massive deployment of security forces and stringent security measures on the island.
Feny Cosico, secretary general of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, said the group had sent requests for permission days earlier, but was still denied access to the island.
Cosico, a scientist focusing on environmental resource management, said her group included a biologist, fisheries expert and student interns who planned to investigate the situation on the island, especially the rehabilitation efforts.
“Various groups and individuals raised funds to purchase rice and other relief goods so we can help the residents of Boracay, whowe know have been severely affected by the closure of the island,” she told the Inquirer by phone from Caticlan, where the group was still waiting on Sunday to be allowed to go to the island.
“We do not understand why we will not be allowed on the island. Is Boracay a war zone?” she added.
According to Cosico, her group wanted to observe the rehabilitation because of reports that there was no comprehensive plan for the cleanup of the island.
“Removal of illegal structures is not enough. What about the restoration of the ecological integrity of the island?” she said.