Over 60 workers will lose their jobs with the impending closure of the Iwahig River firefly watching tour effective Saturday, April 27.
This is after the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) through legal division chief Atty. Fredric Anthony E. Santos issued a cease and desist order (CDO) on March 26 against the Iwahig Community Eco-Tourism Multi-Purpose Cooperative (ICEMCO) that operates the tour in the Barangay Iwahig river within the land under their jurisdiction.
BuCor said this is because ICEMCO violated some provision of their memorandum of agreement (MOA).
Manuel Socrates, chairman of ICEMCO, said in his letter to Mayor Lucilo Bayron that the BuCor is insisting they violated the MOA but did not specify what they are.
The letter was sent through city tourism officer Aileen Amurao.
“May nilabag daw po kami sa kasunduan na hindi naman nila inilahad,” Socrates said.
Amurao told Palawan News that Bayron already wrote President Rodrigo Duterte asked for intervention with BuCor regarding the cease and desist order.
“Ang empleyado [nila 60] lang, pero lahat-lahat including the members of the board nila o ng cooperative nila is 95… more or less nasa 500 din na tao ang maaapektuhan kung kasama ‘yong pamilya nila. Ngayon baka nagva-vacate na sila,” she said.
Amurao said the mayor’s concern was relayed by former Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Bong Go to BuCor Director General Nicanor Faeldon.
However, she said the BuCor imposed a condition that requires ICEMCO to pay P2.4 million first before the agreement is renewed.
“Actually ang sulat [ni Mayor Bayron] ay naka-address kay Pres. Duterte. ‘Yong letter pinadala na ni Secretary Bong Go kay Faeldon. Sumagot ngayon ‘yong attorney ng chief legal ng Bureau of Corrections kay Bong Go naka-copy furnish [tayo]. Magkaiba ‘yong commitment na sinasabi niya kay Secretary Bong Go at saka doon sa sulat na binigay niya sa Iwahig. Ang sinasabi lang niya kay Secretary Bong Go, kinakailangan ay mag-renew sila ng contract, magbayad. Sa Iwahig naman ang sinasabi niya ay mag-bayad ng P2.4 million from the time na na-operate nila,” Amurao pointed out.
She said the cooperative has no means to pay the P2.4 million.
“Hindi naman kayang bayaran ng cooperative ng Iwahig ‘yong dine-demand ng Bureau of Corrections na P2.4 million. Mabigat masyado for the ano (cooperative), hirap din silang mag-bayad,” she added.
Amurao reiterated that ICEMCO should not pay BuCor for the previous years of operation because their lease agreement started only in 2018.
Meanwhile, Amurao said Chief Supt. Geraldo Aro will meet the mayor on April 29 to discuss the problem.
“By Monday may courtesy visit na schedule si Superintendent Aro dito kay mayor. So malalaman namin kung ano ‘yong mapag-u-usapan nila at ano ‘yong magiging agreement,” she said.