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Mass layoffs start on Philippines’ Boracay Island

Workers are feeling the pain even before Boracay Island in the Philippines closes down on April 26 for six months.

Business establishments have started laying off workers less than three weeks before the shutdown of the resort island to all tourism activities.

Proposed guidelines governing the closure include banning all tourists and allowing only residents and workers with official identification cards to stay on the island.

Foreign residents are to be "re-validated" by the Bureau of Immigration and a one-entry, one-exit point will be enforced.

The guidelines will be finalised this week, said Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

PROBLEMS

The shutdown is aimed at rehabilitating the 1,032-ha island, which suffers from a host of problems, including woefully inadequate sewage facilities that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte in February to call Boracay a "cesspool".

A hotel chain has laid off 280 workers in anticipation of zero bookings during the closure.

Business groups expect more establishments to trim down the number of workers to cut down on overhead costs.

Western Visayas director of the Department of Labour and Employment Johnson Canete said the agency was preparing to assist 17,735 registered workers during the shutdown.

The proposed compensation package includes 50 pesos (S$1.30) insurance and compensation equivalent to the regional minimum wage of 323.50 pesos per day, from 30 to 90 days.

But the island workers were earning more than that amount. For instance, a souvenir vendor and masseuse can earn from 700 pesos to 900 pesos per day during the peak months.

The President is expected to declare a state of calamity on Boracay Island to allow the release of 2 billion pesos in public funds, which could be used to help displaced workers.

- THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ANN

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