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Boracay hotel may lose business permit for hosting partying staff of BFP

File Photo: Tourism Secretary Berna Fatima Romulo-Puyat

“NO more accreditation, no more business permit.”

This was Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat’s response to a question on whether the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) was inclined to cancel a Boracay hotel’s business permits and licenses, after the Department of Tourism (DOT) moved to revoke the establishment’s accreditation.

In a phone conversation with the BusinessMirror late Wednesday, the DOT chief expressed disappointment at the incident on Boracay Island involving Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel who checked into HUE Hotels and Resorts Boracay, ostensibly to render service during the official visit of Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) officials on June 11 and 12. One of the staff had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“First of all, those employees arrived on Boracay after we [BIATF] left,” said Romulo Puyat. “We were there on June 11 and left after lunch on June 12. They said they were going there for our conference.” Also, “Boracay was still not open to tourists. We said June 16 pa. The hotel had no certificate of authority to operate.”

She stressed, “I think it’s very unfair to the other hotels on the island who went through the process of securing their certificate of authority to operate (CAO). Everyone was excited that the island was reopening, then this happened. So we revoked their [HUE’s] accreditation.” (See, “DOT to revoke accreditation of hotel which housed ‘tourists,’” in the BusinessMirror, June 17, 2020.)

Romulo Puyat was also incensed that even DOT staff who had gone to the hotel to check its health and safety protocols before a CAO was issued, “are now in quarantine as well. Nadamay pa sila!” The DOT has four teams on the island to check accredited hotels for their safety protocols in preparation for Boracay’s reopening to Western Visayas tourists, which has since been reduced to three due to the quarantining of one team.

As of press time, HUE Hotel had yet to send this paper a copy of their news statement, as promised by its management.

Under Republic Act 9353 (Tourism Act of 2009), local government units can only issue business permits and other licenses to tourism enterprises and establishments after these secure accreditation from the DOT.

As of June 17, only eight resorts on Boracay had received their CAO: Coast Boracay Isles, Henann Palm Beach Resort, Henann Prime Beach Resort, Henann Regency Resort and Spa, Paradise Garden Resort Hotel and Convention Center, Red Coconut Beach Hotel, Seawind Resort, Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa.

Meanwhile, primary tourism enterprises (PTEs) whose accreditations have been revoked by the DOT may reapply, according to Undersecretary for Tourism Coordination and Resource Generation Arturo P. Boncato Jr. “There is a reapplication process,” he said in a Viber message to this paper, but failed to expound on the  reapplication procedure.

He added, before any accreditation is revoked, the agency first has to write a “show-cause” letter to the PTE to give it a chance to explain why no punitive actions should be taken against it.

As per the implementing rules and regulations of RA 9353, the DOT can, “after due notice and hearing, impose fines, downgrade, suspend or revoke the accreditation, for violation of the terms thereof; issue public notices and advisories pertaining to tourism enterprises found to have violated the terms of their accreditation; and notify the LGU concerned when a tourism enterprise [located] in their area fails to obtain or loses its accreditation and monitor the appropriate action taken by the LGU concerned.”

The DOT on Wednesday revoked the CAO of HUE Hotels and Resorts Boracay, after it accepted a booking for 26 personnel from the BFP office in Iloilo, who allegedly used the visit of BIATF officials on June 11 and 12 as cover for their trip to the island, but instead, held a party.  The Covid-positive staff, along with 27 other personnel including the BFP regional director for Western Visayas, have since been put on preventive suspension, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año in an interview on ANC.

According to Boncato, “We revoked the CAO, and initiated accreditation revocation procedures” against the hotel. The DOT already sent HUE a show-cause letter.

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