THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has suspended the accreditation of Berjaya Makati Hotel for two months and fined it P13,200 for violations of health and safety protocols with regard to the mandatory quarantine of Filipinos arriving from abroad.
The agency also revoked the hotel’s permit to operate as a multiple-use hotel, in a resolution dated January 18, 2022 and signed by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror. The DOT decision was sent to Berjaya Makati president Jose A. Bernas, through Gladiolyn Badiola, hotel general manager.
No longer a multi-use hotel, Berjaya can only operate strictly as a quarantine hotel after completion of its suspension. It is no longer allowed to accept bookings for social gatherings and business meetings.
Berjaya was penalized after the DOT found out that it had lied and allowed balikbayan guest Gwyneth Anne Chua “to leave the premises despite being under mandatory quarantine as an international arriving passenger….Ms. Chua was seen leaving the hotel on 22 December 2021 at around 11:45 pm. Ms. Chua was later seen returning to the hotel on 25 December 2021 at around 9 pm.”
She later tested positive for Covid-19, after the DOT also gathered photo and video evidence that she had partied in Kampai bar in Poblacion, Makati, thus earning her the monicker “Poblacion Girl.”
In the DOT’s final resolution on the case, following an appeal made by Berjaya, Romulo Puyat shortened the suspension of the hotel’s accreditation to two months, down from the original three-month suspension ordered on January 3, recognizing the establishment’s service during the pandemic, investments made by its principal owners, as well as consideration for its employees who will lose their income.
The Makati City government padlocked the hotel on January 6 for violations of the city’s health and safety standards, despite the establishment having 15 days to appeal the DOT’s initial suspension order. On January 7, the hotel appealed the DOT’s initial suspension order. (See, “DOT looking for other hotels for displaced Berjaya guests,” in the BusinessMirror, January 6, 2022.)
Warning of severe penalties
“Despite not raising new and substantial arguments in its appeal that would warrant a reconsideration of the assailed decision and the revocation of its approval to operate as a multiple-use hotel, Berjaya nonetheless implores the understanding of this Office regarding this lapse, invoking the investments it has made in order to operate safely, its issuance of ‘Enhanced Quarantine Procedures and Control’ in order to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, and its overall record and continuous commitment to be a partner of the government in serving the public amid a global pandemic. Berjaya also seeks sympathy for its employees who would be rendered without income while the hotel is suspended,” said Romulo Puyat.
“In light of the foregoing, this Office finds that a reduction of the period of suspension of Berjaya’s DOT accreditation from three months to two months may be justified. However, respondent-appellant is warned that a repetition of the same or similar infraction shall not be subject of mitigating circumstances and will be dealt with more severely. Berjaya is also reminded that it cannot even operate as a quarantine hotel during the length of its suspension,” she wrote.
Romulo Puyat also said Rule 6, Section 2 of the revised implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 113322, the law on the reporting of communicable diseases, “explicitly provides that hotels and other accommodation establishments, whether public or private, are required to accurately and immediately report notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern,” in response to Berjaya’s assertion only health facilities were covered.