Stranded Boracay workers plead for help

Stranded workers in Sitio Sinagpa in Boracay Island ask for help amid the lockdown in the island resort. (Photo by Alvin ‘Dags’ Santiago/Facebook)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

More than a hundred workers who have been stranded in Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan, and have not been working since the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the province due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), have been pleading to return to their homes in other parts of Western Visayas.

Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores had placed the province under the ECQ on March 22, 2020 through Executive Order (EO) No. 020 to combat the further spread of COVID-19.

The ECQ was extended on April 9 through the issuance of EO No. 021 from April 14 to April 30, after having consulted with town mayors, Municipal Health Officers, and provincial officials.

Boracay Island itself has been placed under general community quarantine by the local government unit (LGU) of Malay through EO No. 14 issued by the town’s Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista.

The general community quarantine in the island had started on March 19, running indefinitely and will only expire when lifted.

Tourism had already slowed down in the island since late January to February, as the spread of COVID-19 has led to an uproar of letting Chinese visitors enter the country.

On January 25, around 500 Chinese tourists from Wuhan, China, the first global epicenter of COVID-19, were flown back from Kalibo.

Around 164 workers from tourism-related services in Boracay, such as hotels, restaurants, transportation and tourist services, have organized together to plead for assistance for them to be able to return to their homes in Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo and Negros Occidental.




Cristina Legaspi, a hotel worker from Passi City, Iloilo, shared her struggle to survive as a non-resident of the island.

“I’m having difficulty because I wasn’t given a quarantine pass, I just share with someone who has a pass because there was only one given per house, which I couldn’t just borrow because they would be using it as well. We can’t even access relief goods because they only give it to those with records in the barangay hall. Our burdens may prolong if this gets extended. We’re running out of money and we don’t know how we’ll live because we’re stuck in our boarding houses,” she said.

Another Ilongga worker, Vanna Vaneza Reyna from Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, said that establishments in the island should have made them go on forced leave before the lockdowns in the province.

“We haven’t been working since March 20 due to forced leave. What’s difficult for us is they should have put us on such forced leave before the lockdowns so we could’ve gone home, but it was late so we had no choice. We still pay for our boarding houses and goods are too expensive. What we spent could have been saved if we were just given the opportunity to go home,” she said.

Veberly Pausal from Cadiz City, Negros Occidental said the situation has become too difficult for them.


“Our situation here has become too difficult. We don’t have work but we keep paying our boarding houses here. We don’t have food to eat anymore and we weren’t able to receive relief goods because they only give to those who are voters of the barangay. We can’t just go out [of our boarding houses] because we don’t have quarantine passes,” she said.




Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said that he had already been informed of the situation of workers in Boracay and has asked City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office chief Donna Magno to coordinate with the LGU of Malay.

“We have residents who were stranded in Boracay, in Cebu, and in Manila. Donna is already coordinating for their return, but we request that they follow the protocol of the Regional IATF that they be quarantined and be tested upon their arrival and if they are negative, they will be sent directly to their homes. Donna is progressively coordinating on this, because there are those in Manila, Cebu and Boracay, and in Boracay they were asking for help because they were going hungry,” he said.

On the other hand, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. said that he had not been informed of the situation and likened this to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who were currently stranded in Manila and Cebu.


“We were not informed yet [by Governor Miraflores] because we haven’t talked yet, but we see this as a consequence of our ECQ and our border restrictions. Not just in Boracay, we also have fellow Ilonggos stranded in other parts of the country. I don’t know [if this can be raised with Governor Miraflores] because the information has not reached me yet, but we have to enforce our quarantine, because they are just part of the people who were stranded because we locked the province’s borders because we have to decide for the province. Together with the OFWs, they have the same status, but we’re deciding on it, what’s best for our quarantine,” he said.

Daily Guardian has reached out to Acting Mayor Bautista and Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Helen Catalbas, but no response has been given as of this writing.