Boracay arrivals plummet as bars are shut down
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Authorities on Boracay Island have suspended operations of all bars and food parks amid rising cases of COVID-19 that led to the lockdown of two subvillages starting on Sunday.
The lockdown on Zones 5 and 6 in Barangay Balabag, one of three villages on the 1,032-hectare island, affects 31 hotels and resorts as well as residential areas and will be effective until April 10.
The local government of Malay town in Aklan province, which has jurisdiction over the island, advised tourists on Sunday to limit their movement until they can be issued quarantine passes.
Tourists who have reservations in hotels and resorts in the restricted area have been asked to transfer their booking to other establishments while affected residents are restricted to their homes except for authorized persons and those going out for emergency purposes.
Also shut down were restaurants with live shows and bands. Sixteen COVID-19 cases were reported on the island on Saturday, bringing the island’s total to 50. Twenty-four of the cases, including 17 in Balabag, were active with 41 recoveries.
The lockdown was implemented just when the island was readying for the Holy Week with tourists expected to visit the island due to the long holiday break.
“Many residents will be affected and this is another blow to businesses. We did not have time to prepare and there will be plenty of spoilage and damages,” a business owner told the Inquirer but asked not to be named. The island is already reeling from the heightened travel restrictions from Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces, which have triggered mass cancellations of bookings.
The cancellations last week could not have happened at a worse time when tourist arrivals have been on an upswing and with holidays leading to the Holy Week.
“We all expected ‘great’ occupancy due to the Holy Week. Unfortunately, [the travel restrictions] have a very big impact,” Wesley van der Voort, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Boracay, said.
Felix Delos Santos, municipal tourism officer of Malay, said they had expected a new peak of about 20,000 tourist arrivals, mostly from Metro Manila, by the end of the March, as tourist arrivals already reached 16,412 as of March 21.
Some hotels that had called back their staff had to send them home again due to the cancellations.
No shrine visits
Bulacan province, which along with Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Rizal and Cavite has been placed under enhanced community quarantine, banned the traditional “Visita Iglesia” (church visits) and pilgrimage to 12 national shrines and major Catholic churches in the province during the Holy Week.
Eliseo Dela Cruz, Bulacan provincial tourism officer, said checkpoints were set up and police were deployed around the province’s shrines and churches to ensure that these would be off-limits to visitors.
Prior to the pandemic, about 1 million people would flock to these sites starting Holy Thursday, Dela Cruz said.
—REPORTS FROM NESTOR P. BURGOS JR. AND CARMELA REYES-ESTROPE
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.