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In Boracay, strict safety guidelines up

/ 12:02 AM December 01, 2015

ILOILO CITY—Coast Guard authorities have tightened safety measures in Caticlan, the jump-off point to the island-resort of Boracay amid the expected influx of vacationists bound for the country’s top tourist attraction known worldwide for its powdery white sand beaches.

Lt. Edison Diaz, commander of the Coast Guard station in Caticlan, said passengers of motorboats going to and from Boracay would be strictly required to fill up the passenger manifest before departure. They must also wear life jackets for the 15 to 20-minute trip between the Caticlan and Cagban jetty ports.

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“These are existing guidelines that we are strictly implementing based on directives from our headquarters,” Diaz told the Inquirer.

Tourism and local officials expect tourist arrivals in Boracay to reach 1.5 million this year.

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Last year, tourist arrivals grew by 7.97 percent (108,753) from 1,363,599 in 2013 to 1,472,352, according to the Department of Tourism in Western Visayas.

Tourism revenues also reached a new record high of P40,705,013,547, 62.38 percent higher than the P25,067,585,857 recorded in 2013.

Diaz stressed the importance of the signing of the manifest in the accounting of people on board a boat, especially during accidents. The wearing of life jackets is also a basic precaution for accidents, even in short-distance travel, he said.

Last month, nine people died when a passenger boat sank in the waters between Iloilo and Guimaras provinces. Coast Guard and rescue groups had difficulty accounting for the number of rescued and missing due to the an incomplete passenger manifest.

Several of the passengers also failed to wear life jackets.

The stricter implementation of safety measures has meant a longer stay for Boracay-bound tourists and other passengers at the ports before departure. But Diaz said their safety is the primary concern even if this could mean a slight inconvenience to them.

“We cannot compromise the safety and lives of the passengers. We hope they understand that,” he said.

The Coast Guard and other agencies have also stepped up inspection of cargo boats bound for Boracay, as well as the random conduct of sea patrols to ensure the security and safety of tourists and residents of the 1,032-hectare island.

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