Petitioners appeal SC ruling on constitutionality of Boracay closure order

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Petitioners appeal SC ruling on constitutionality of Boracay closure order
File photo shows workers in Boracay Island.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — Boracay workers asked the Supreme Court to reverse its decision upholding the constitutionality of the six-month closure of the world famous island, as they asserted that the government order violated the right to travel, which the Constitution protects.

The SC, last month, voted 11-2 to uphold the constitutionality of the government order and junked the petition for prohibition and mandamus filed by two Boracay workers and a tourist on April 2018.

The petitioners accused the government of “patent abuse of power and reckless disregard of the law.”

But the SC ruled on February 26, 2019 that Proclamation No. 475, which declared a state of calamity in the island and contained the closure order, “did not pose an actual impairment of the right to travel.”

The tribunal added: “The impact of the said proclamation on the right to travel was temporary and merely incidental to the intended rehabilitation of the island."

'Impairment to travel was deliberate'

The petitioners asserted, in their motion for reconsideration filed before the court, that while the closure was temporary, “the impairment of the right to travel was actual and deliberate, as Proclamation No. 475 was effective in preventing people from visiting Boracay Island.”

The petitioners raised that the president ordered that no tourist shall be allowed entry to Boracay during the six-month closure of the island, which makes the impairment of the right to travel “deliberate.”

They also pointed out that Proclamation No. 475 was more than just a declaration of state of calamity as it also ordered the closure of the island and directed government agencies to prevent the entry of tourists.

“While benignly designated as a ‘proclamation,’ the said issuance imposed restrictions on fundamental rights—an area reserved by the Constitution to Congress. On that account and to the extent that it impairs the right to travel, Proclamation No. 475 is void for being an invalid exercise of legislative powers by the Chief Executive,” they added.

Boracay was reopened on October 26, 2018. The government is currently working on the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, which may include reclamation projects that fisherfolk and urban poor groups oppose over concerns of displacement and of the potential loss of their livelihood.

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