It’s not all gloomy in the island of Boracay despite its temporary closure. In fact, the people living in the island are smiling and happy.

These happy people, who are members of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (BATO), reside in a 2.1hectare ancestral domain located in the island. They have all the reason to be happy because no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself announced that they will be the recipient of land ownership awards once the island is successfully converted into an agrarian reform area.

With the closure of Boracay island, national government agencies pitched in to aid those who will be displaced economically. Among the recipient of the assistance include the members of BATO. These aids include Cash For Work (CSW), educational assistance, Sustainable Livelihood Assistance (SLP), and family packs.

Latest record of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) showed that of the 1,635 beneficiaries of SLP from three barangays in the island, 45 are members of BATO. Recently, a total of P24, 525,000.00 was distributed by the DSWD under this program, with each recipient receiving P15,000.00 as grant, to be used in any livelihood project or venture of their choice. The said amount is the second batch of SLP fund for Boracay’s displaced residents.

During the visit of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Manny Piñol’s to Boracay Island last week, he met with the Ati community and urged them to turn their ancestral domain into an agri-tourism site. Piñol urged the Ati community to get into agri-business with the aim of lifting them out of poverty and to provide them with government intervention.

Piñol said indigenous peoples and women’s groups in the island may avail themselves of P2 million in financial support through DA’s “Survival Recovery” loan program. Under this program, 45 Ati households and the rest will get P25,000 each to be used as a sustainable community livelihood.

The DA and the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) will also be assisting the Ati community in setting up an organic vegetable garden. Secretary Piñol said that the farm produce may then be supplied to an organic restaurant that the department suggests be put up by the Ati community in Boracay to serve indigenous dishes.

Meanwhile, with the lack of activity in Boracay waters around the island, sea-loving creatures had been seen in the area, like green turtles and a butanding or whale shark. The island’s natives said this is the first time that the area was visited by a whale shark. If the whale shark’s appearance is sustained, this could be another tourist attraction in the area.

According to experts, these aquatic animals tend to go near areas which are undisturbed or with no human activities. This proves to be true in Boracay’s case where it was ordered closed for rehabilitation for six months since April 26.

According to the heads of national government agencies involved in the rehabilitation of the island, Boracay is set to be reopened on October 26 this year.