PNP pooh-poohs anti-closure protest

BORACAY ISLAND, Malay – The Metro Boracay Task Force (MBTF) said protest actions against the 6-month closure of this island resort will not get traction among the locals.

MBTF, which is comprised of police and other law enforcement units, made the statement during the caravan led by militant groups Bayan Muna and Karapatan.

Senior Superintendent Jesus Cambay Sr., PNP Deputy Regional Director for Operations and concurrent MBTF commander, said he is both happy and sad about the protest action.

“Ikinalulungkot namin na sila ay hindi taga-Malay. They came all the way from Iloilo and Kalibo,” Cambay said.

On Wednesday afternoon, at least five vehicles filled with protesters were mobilized from Leganes town in Iloilo to Aklan.

“But we are very glad na ‘yung tao mga tao don’t buy the idea of doing rallies. Ninety-nine percent Boracay residents or those from Malay and neighboring towns are not supporting any protest actions,” Cambay said.

The group was headed by Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, who arrived in Kalibo on Wednesday to lead the launching of the People’s Movement Against Boracay Closure or “iamBoracay.”

Zarate said more or less 200 persons joined the protest caravan.

The group claims that they oppose the closure of the island-resort to give way to rehabilitation works. They also vowed to defend the people’s livelihood as well as protest the planned construction of a mega-casino on the island.

Zarate said they are for rehabilitation but they oppose the arbitrary closure of the island citing the welfare of the residents and workers.

“The government doesn’t listen to the sentiments of the folks who are affected,” he added.

The militant group leader said the closure was done without the due regard to the livelihood and welfare of the residents.

Zarate’s group proceeded to Boracay Island for a fact-finding mission.

Cambay said they wouldn’t do anything to impede the group’s action.

“We are in a democratic country. Wala pa namang closure kaya pwede pa silang pumasok sa isla. I just ask them to do it peacefully and orderly,” he added.

The MBTF commander also told the protesters not to violate the rights of other people.

“I hope, they would be fair,” he added.

When asked about rallies which lack permits, Cambay said they have a protocol for that.

“Sana naman po ‘wag nilang ituloy dahil all we want is the rehabilitation and environmental recovery of Boracay Island,” he added.

Cambay admitted that the 138 members of the Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) or anti-riot company have been deployed for Boracay.

They form part of the 630 policemen who are assigned to the island to beef up the existing force of MBTF and the Boracay Tourist Assistance Center (BTAC).

Cambay said they don’t foresee deploying additional force.

“We have enough force. So far, the highest threat we received is the conduct of protest actions,” he added.

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