‘Where will tourists stay if only a third of Boracay reopens?’

ILOILO CITY—Business operators in Boracay are worried about the small number of establishments in operation when the island receives tourists again starting Oct. 26.

“What will happen when tourists come in and only a few hotels, resorts and restaurants are open?’’ a business operator told the Inquirer on condition of anonymity.

“Where will they stay? Will they be turned back?”

Cebu Pacific is set to resume flights to the Caticlan airport in Malay town on Oct. 26 and Philippine Airlines, on Oct. 27.

Last year, an average of 166,000 tourists visited the resort island monthly.

President Duterte ordered the closure of the island to tourists starting on April 26 for a six-month rehabilitation after he called the country’s premier tourist destination a “cesspool.”

‘Unreasonable’ requirements

Another business operator said the failure of many businesses to comply with “unreasonable” requirements and deadlines before these were allowed to operate could be made an excuse to postpone the island’s reopening.

“It would then be made to appear that the reopening was postponed because businesses were unwilling to comply with requirements when it truth, government is imposing unreasonable demands on us,” the source said.

At a hearing of the Senate committee on the environment on Monday, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said 30 to 50 percent of business establishments might be able to comply with the requirements set by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force and be allowed to operate.

Many business operators are still processing their applications for permits and other requirements, especially the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

All ECCs suspended

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered the suspension of all ECCs on the island to “thoroughly” reevaluate compliance of establishments with national and local environmental laws and regulations.

An ECC certifies that a project or activity will not pose environmental hazards or damage and that its proponents are capable of implementing measures to protect the environment. It is issued before a project or activity is undertaken.

Many business operators earlier complained of the “arbitrary” suspension of ECCs, citing the “tedious and costly” process in securing the permit.

They argued that only the ECCs of those with environmental and other violations should have been suspended.

The government one-stop shop to receive applications for an ECC and other permits set up in Boracay is set to close on Aug. 25.

Business groups are seeking an extension to allow business operators to secure the permits in time for the reopening of the island.