Boracay residents slam age restrictions on swimming for locals but not for tourists
ILOILO CITY –– Several residents of Boracay Island have raised an outcry over the continued implementation of age restrictions on swimming on locals but not for tourists.
They said allowing tourists below 21 and above 60 years old to enter the island and swim in the beach, while barring residents belonging to the same age bracket, is discriminatory and unfair.
Some residents have taken to social media to rant about the policy.
“Our kids are impounded at home for close to five months now while tourist kids are allowed to swim? What a joke!” one resident said.
“Nobody can beat this idiocy,” a long-time resident told the INQUIRER but asked not to be identified.
But Acting Mayor Floribar Bautista of Malay town in Aklan which has jurisdiction over the island defended the measures.
“It’s for the residents’ safety and protection. If they mingle with the tourists and get infected, it would be my responsibility,” he told the INQUIRER on Tuesday.
Bautista said the directive of the National Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases issued on July 23 to lift age restrictions on tourists traveling to Boracay did not cover residents of his municipality, who are covered by a municipal executive order restricting the movement of those below 21 and above 60 years old.
The national task force directed the reopening of the island to tourists from Western Visayas starting June 16 to help revive the economy amid months of restrictions that have resulted in billions of pesos in losses and lay off of workers.
Under the directive, only tourists coming from the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental are allowed to travel to the island.
After months of restriction, Boracay residents were allowed to swim in the beach on June 1 but with restrictions, including the compulsory registration in designated stations and swimming only in designated areas.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat earlier said the age restriction for Boracay tourists were lifted to reinvigorate tourism and attract more tourists to the island.
Puyat had cited the absence of reported COVID-19 cases on the island, saying health and safety protocols are in place upon arrival of local visitors.
Bautista said tourists, who are below 21 and above 60 years old, must present a hotel voucher as proof that they are tourists and not residents of the island before they are allowed to swim.
He said the measures are intended to ensure the implementation of health protocols while still encouraging tourists to visit the island to help the economy revive.
From June 16 to 31, more than 100 tourists visited the island. This increased to 357 from July 1 to 26.
“It is still a small number but it is increasing and we hope more will come here,” Bautista said.
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