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HIGHER CAPACITY sought FOR RESORT ISLAND

Business owners to gov’t: Allow more tourists in Boracay

/ 05:00 AM April 22, 2022
A spot on the main beach on Boracay Island’s Station 1 is silent on Wednesday as tourists seek shelter from the intense heat

BRIEF SILENCE A spot on the main beach on Boracay Island’s Station 1 is silent on Wednesday as tourists seek shelter from the intense heat. Visitors continue to flock to the resort island in Malay, Aklan, but arrivals have slightly dipped after the Holy Week. —JACK JARILLA

ILOILO CITY — Business operators on Boracay Island have asked the Department of Tourism (DOT) to reconsider the current limit for tourists arrivals, saying the government-mandated carrying capacity was pegged before major rehabilitation measures were implemented.

In a letter to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat dated April 19, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)-Boracay said the current situation on the resort island in Malay, Aklan, was “greatly different” from conditions before 2018.

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“The carrying capacity studies were performed in 2018 at the very start of the first closure. Since this time, some massive improvements and epic upgrades have been accomplished,” PCCI-Boracay said.

Puyat has called out officials of Aklan province over the surge in tourists during the Holy Week which, she said, breached the carrying capacity on April 14 (Maundy Thursday) with 21,252 tourists and on April 15 (Good Friday) with 22,519.

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The island’s carrying capacity of 19,215 tourists at any given time was pegged by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other agencies during the closure of the island from April 26 to Oct. 25, 2018, as Boracay underwent rehabilitation.

The average daily tourist arrivals should be around 6,405 so as not to exceed the island’s carrying capacity, according to government agencies. The carrying capacity is set as the maximum number of tourists that the island’s environment can support in consideration of the island’s ecosystem, infrastructure and population, among others.

Improvements

But PCCI-Boracay said the current carrying capacity should be reconsidered because “so many improvements have been made to Boracay’s infrastructure.”

The business group cited widened roads, improved sewerage system, better water quality, putting up of individual sewage treatment plants of hotels and other establishments, and compliance with building regulations.

Boracay business operators, who have been reeling from an economic slump for two years due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine measures, have welcomed the recent increase in tourist arrivals.

Martin Jose Despi, general manager of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG), said results of a new study on the island’s carrying capacity would be released on June 15.

The total carrying capacity of the island, including tourists and residents, was pegged at 55,757, according to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, or 54,949 based on Presidential Proclamation No. 1064 which classified parts of Boracay as alienable and disposable forest lands and protected areas.

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Before it was closed in 2018, the island’s population, including tourists, was 70,781 per day.

“Most probably, because of the rehabilitation interventions, the carrying capacity will increase,” Despi told the Inquirer.

Despi said the BIARMG had recommended the putting up of an integrated real-time information technology system that would monitor the number of tourists on the island to guide government agencies as well as tourists planning to visit.

DILG warning

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) reiterated its warning to Aklan officials to ensure compliance with the daily visitor threshold in Boracay “or be ready to receive show cause orders (SCOs) due to negligence.”

“We will not hesitate to issue SCOs against officials of the LGUs (local government units) who would not implement the national government policies in Boracay. We cannot go back to square one, especially now that we are still in the middle of the pandemic,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement on Thursday.

“Our efforts to rehabilitate and reverse the ecological degradation of the island will all be futile if we become negligent in complying with the guidelines set by the national government,” he added.

DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya reminded tourists and residents of Boracay and Aklan province that these areas are still under the alert level 1 status, the least restrictive among the five COVID-19 alert levels, but still entails the observance of minimum public health standards, including wearing of face masks.

“We do not want to experience another surge in COVID-19 cases. We have the right to travel and enjoy the different tourist destinations in the country, but we must remain disciplined because the pandemic is not yet over,” Malaya said. —WITH A REPORT FROM DEXTER CABALZA

RELATED STORY:
No clear rules to limit Boracay tourists – Aklan execs

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TAGS: Berna Romulo Puyat, Boracay, COVID-19 restrictions, Department of Tourism, local tourism
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