Why is the military deployed in Boracay ahead of closure?

April 24, 2018 - 7:27 PM
Tourists walk past a SWAT police team during a military and police drill in preparation for the temporary closure of the holiday island Boracay in Philippines April 24, 2018. (Reuters/Erik De Castro)

While the government prepares to close Boracay due to environmental problems, military forces have been deployed on the island causing concern and raising questions as to what their role will be.

Philippine Army Brigadier General Pio Diñoso said in a report that the soldiers will maintain peace and order and provide support to police assigned to handle the island’s security.

The presence of around 200 military personnel from the Army, Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit and Navy is being questioned by some who could not help but wonder if a war was going on.

PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said that the deployment is for the possible protests and demonstrations during the closure.

He stated in a media briefing that they would “exercise maximum tolerance” and would prepare for possible “uncertainty, confusion, and low morale” from locals who might be “agitated” by leftist groups.

Deploy to West Philippine Sea instead

Some thought that the government should’ve deployed the security forces to the West Philippine Sea instead to defend against Chinese incursions into the 200 nautical mile Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Philippines has sovereign rights to Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands which were the subject of an arbitration case before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The tribunal ruling rejected China’s claim of historical rights in nearly the entire South China Sea through its nine-dash line claim.

China has refused to recognize the ruling and has even turned submerged reefs into artificial islands capable of supporting military bases with airfields.

Rehabilitation agencies

Government agencies involved in the rehabilitation are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Tourism.

The military was not initially reported to be part of the rehabilitation.

The mentioned government agencies have recommended for the island to have a six-month closure following the environmental issues and concerns raised.

A sewage pipe exposed along the shoreline of Bulabog beach in Boracay. (Reuters/Erik De Castro)

During the rehabilitation, sewage and road systems within the island would be improved. Structures that were illegally built would be removed as well.

In addition, solid waste management facilities would be installed.

It was discovered that the local government unit can only handle 30 tons of solid waste per day. However, Boracay generates around 90 to 115 tons of waste daily.