ARRIVALS in Boracay Island breached the 6,405 daily arrivals cap on November 30, as tourists settled in for the Bonifacio Day holiday weekend.
Data from the municipal tourism office obtained by the BusinessMirror showed the tourist arrivals reached 6,772, prompting local stakeholders to question the government’s actual guidelines on the imposition of the carrying capacity on the island.
Nenette Aguirre Graf, president of the Boracay Foundation Inc., one of the two pioneering stakeholders groups on the island, said in Filipino, “the Municipal Tourism Office informed the DOT [Department of Tourism] but they didn’t receive any instruction even after the daily arrivals limit was exceeded. So they kept on accepting arrivals until the last guest arrived on November 30.”
She asked for clearer guidelines on the arrivals, or “is the carrying capacity just a suggestion? It was not monitored if the tourists left the island just moved to other noncompliant resorts.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had commissioned a study of Boracay’s carrying capacity, which revealed that the island could only accommodate 19,215 tourists on the
island, at any given time, with daily
arrivals that should be capped at 6,405.
Carrying capacity refers to an ecosystem’s ability to support people and other living things without having negative effects. “It also includes a limit of resources and pollution levels that can be maintained without experiencing high levels of change. If the carrying capacity is exceeded, living organisms must adapt to new levels of consumption or find alternative resources,” according to the Environmental Literary Council.
In an interview with the BusinessMirror, DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation Arturo P. Boncato Jr. sought to allay stakeholders’ fears of a possible overcrowding of the beaches in Boracay, by saying “we are now monitoring departures from the island, as well.”
In the monitoring data he shared with this paper, total tourist arrivals in fact reached 7,302 on November 30, the highest number of arrivals since the island officially opened on October 26, when 3,068 tourists visited.
But the same data showed that on November 30, just 3,803 tourists left Boracay, which means the island was still safe from overcrowding. The more important carrying capacity number is 19,215, which should not be breached, stressed Boncato.
“Our real carrying capacity is 19,215 at any given time. Our average arrivals per day was 3,700 from October 26 to December 11. But starting November 26, we came out with an outbound report, so the number of tourists leaving Boracay have been larger than those arriving,” he said. “The 6,405 daily arrivals carrying capacity number also assumed a three-night stay. So even with the entry of workers, the carrying capacity never exceeded the 19,215 cap,” he explained.
From November 29 to December 2 holiday weekend, 20,803 tourists arrived on the island. On those days, however, 18,408 tourists departed the island, with the largest exit recorded on December 2 at 7,108, as the next day would be a workday, Monday.
Meanwhile, Boncato assured that the cruise ships that are arriving in Boracay this December “are not large cruise ships. They’re just expedition ships, so they carry just about 100 persons.”
Stakeholders on Boracay had expressed their opposition to the arrivals of the cruise ships as passengers not only affect the limited carrying capacity of the island, but they also don’t stay in the hotels nor pay for any local services like eat in restaurants or tours.
At one of the meetings of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, there was some discussion on prohibiting the arrivals of cruise ships. But Boncato said, this issue will be up for further discussion by the BIATF. “At present, the arrivals of the cruise ships have permits from the PPA [Philippine Ports Authority] and the DENR,” he noted. “We will just prepare for the guests to have an excellent tourism experience in Boracay.”
About eight cruise ships were supposed to have arrived in Boracay since it reopened on October 26. Among these are Windstar Cruises, which operates luxury cruise ships, whose ships will be arriving this month until next year.
In other published reports, the Caticlan Jetty Port administrator said they were expecting about port calls by some 30 cruise ships next year. Caticlan is the gateway to Boracay Island, acclaimed as one of the best islands in the world, prior to its closure on April 26.