Boracay now ready to accept tourists from Western Visayas

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BORACAY Island is now open for business.

This was decision reached by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) on Thursday, acting on a resolution of the Aklan provincial government headed by Gov. Florencio Miraflores.

In a virtual presser live from the island, BIATF Chair and Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said Boracay will be open to tourists from Western Visayas, under phase one of its gradual reopening, starting on June 16.

However, he said, only tourists between the ages of 21 and 59 are allowed to enter the island, which is still under the modified general community quarantine  (MGCQ) status.

“The tourists will be accommodated in hotels accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT),” he added. According to BIATF co-chair Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, there are 390 DOT-accredited hotels and resorts, “but only 98 have so far applied to reopen. So we are encouraging the others to please send in your letter of intent to operate. The DOT wants to give everyone the certificate of authority to operate.”

Under guidelines set out by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, accommodation establishments returning to business during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), and GCQ periods need to secure said certificate from the DOT before reopening.

For his part, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo S. Año said the age restrictions for tourists into Boracay can be eased, “after zero Covid cases are recorded for a month.” He noted the Boracay has recorded a few Covid cases from returning Filipinos, “but these have already been managed.”

A BIATF co-chair, Año also reiterated that the Caticlan and Kalibo airports will continue to be “closed to commercial flights,” after talking with Western Visayas governors. “Eventually, we will reopen the island to domestic tourists, then to international tourists. We will make Boracay again the showcase for tourism in the country.”

At its peak, in 2017, Boracay recorded 2 million visitor arrivals, half of whom were foreign tourists. It was closed for six months in 2018 starting April 26, to give way to government’s rehabilitation efforts which include the recovery of wetlands,  solving environmental problems, construction of a circumferential road, completion a drainage system, and implementing easement rules along the main beaches and along the roads.

According to data on tourist arrivals from March 17 to May 28, 2019 from the DOT, Aklan, where Boracay is located, lost some P14.23 billion in tourism receipts in the comparative period this year, due to the Covid crisis.

The three Cabinet Secretaries inspected the island’s readiness to accept tourists on Thursday, and met with local government representatives, other government agencies, and some private tourism stakeholders. Romulo Puyat told reporters Boracay now has a Covid laboratory with three RT-PCR machines to process Covid tests, with a fourth one to be donated by the Filinvest Foundation. Also, the Ciriaco Tirol Hospital in Balabag is now fully equipped to handle patients, courtesy of a donation from the Makati Medical Foundation.

Image credits: Stella Arnaldo

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