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DOT to screen reporters planning to cover Boracay closure

/ 05:08 PM April 16, 2018

ILOILO CITY – The national government is restricting access of journalists covering the closure and rehabilitation of Boracay Island which has raised questions and concerns among reporters covering the island for years.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has announced that journalists planning to go to the island to cover and report on the six-month closure need vetting and accreditation from the DOT before they will be issued a special pass.

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But they are only allowed to stay on the island only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are required to go back to the mainland of Malay town, according to DOT Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre.

“They will have to go back to the Caticlan like everyone else. They can return the next day,” Alegre told the INQUIRER.

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Journalists would only be allowed access in designated areas and would be required to ask permission and be escorted to go to other areas. These measures were similar to those imposed in high-risk situations and areas like war zones.

But Alegre said these measures were implemented based on the recommendation of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“We want to limit people on the island. We also do not want tourists to sneak in by pretending to be journalists. We want to know who are the people on the island,” he said.

Asked if journalists who stay on the island beyond 5 p.m. will be arrested, Alegre said “they will be let out.”

An Aklan-based reporter said the restrictions will affect the coverage and reportage of events there, citing the 24/7 news cycle of news organizations.

“Many of us have relatives and friends on the island where we can stay. We will be there to work and not as tourists,” the reporter told the INQUIRER on condition of anonymity as the comments might antagonize those accrediting journalists.

Traveling between Boracay and Caticlan will not only be time-consuming but would mean extra expenses to journalists, according to the reporter. The reporter noted that the restrictions on covering Boracay Island are unprecedented are even stringent than those imposed during the holding of meetings on the island of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

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Alegre said the DILG will explain the guidelines in a workshop to be undertaken by the interagency task force with Boracay community members on Tuesday.

“Let us give them a chance to explain these,” he said. Under the media guidelines, news organizations need to apply for accreditation from the DOT starting on April 16.

Television networks will each be allowed a maximum of 12 accredited personnel while print, online and radio news organizations will each be allowed five.

Foreign journalists are also required to submit proof of International Press Center accreditation.

The names of accredited journalists will be furnished to the security personnel who will monitor those going to the island from the Caticlan jetty port on the mainland.

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