Boracay stakeholders seek
increase in carrying capacity

TOURISM stakeholders on Boracay Island have appealed for a new study on the island’s carrying capacity, in the light of infrastructure improvements made by government.

In a letter on April 19, 2022 to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat and Regional Director for Western Visayas Cristine C. Mansiñares, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay (PCCI-Boracay) said, “So many improvements have been made to Boracay’s infrastructure. It may make sense to reconsider the [carrying] capacity recommendations from prior to these significant improvements.”

Since the island’s reopening on October 25, 2018 and in the succeeding years, PCCI-Boracay noted that roads have been widened, the island’s sewerage system has been improved, water quality issues that initially affected Boracay’s environment have been addressed, hotels and other establishments have built their own sewerage treatment plants, and buildings have complied with measures mandated by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force.

The business group’s appeal comes on the heels of Romulo Puyat’s recent report, citing the island as having breached its carrying capacity for tourists during the Lenten break. A study commissioned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2018 determined that the island could only accommodate up to 19,215 tourists a day, at any given time. (See, Boracay breaches carrying capacity for tourists on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday — DOT,” in the BusinessMirror, on April 18, 2022.)

“I fought with the mayor,” she disclosed at a press conference on April 20, at the start of the three-day 21st World Tourism and Travel Council Global Summit in Manila. “It’s not about lobbying,” referring to the PCCI-Boracay’s request. “It’s about studies, if indeed, it can be increased. We will rely on the experts. Even pre-pandemic, we never breached the 19,000 [carrying capacity].”

Flights not cause of tourist influx

As this developed, data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) obtained by the BusinessMirror showed flights to Caticlan, the gateway to Boracay, are still below pre-pandemic levels, and could not have been the cause of the recent breaches in carrying capacity of Boracay Island.

For this year’s summer season, from March to October, the CAB only approved 1,880 flights to Caticlan, compared to 2,720 flights approved in summer 2019.

Bulk of this summer’s approved flights originate from Manila, at 992, with the Cebu Pacific group (including Cebgo) accounting for the most number at 434, while Philippine Airlines Express and Airphil Express share 217 flights, Philippines Air Asia also has 217, while Airswift Transport has 124.

The data also show 785 approved flights from Cebu to Caticlan, and 103 flights originating from Clark in Pampanga for summer 2022.

A CAB source said, “Pre-pandemic, they had almost double the number of flights approved this season. And yet, Boracay exceeded 6,400 flights per day this month. That would show that the number of flights is not the direct cause [of exceeding the carrying capacity during the Lenten break].”

Carrying capacity refers to an ecosystem’s ability to support people and other living things without having negative effects.

DILG reiterates capacity cap

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government has already written to  Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores and Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista to respect the capacity limit for tourists on the island.

At a news briefing in Malacañang, DILG Undersecretary Epimaco V. Densing III added, “If the carrying capacity [is exceeded], whether through negligence or intentional, we will send  them a letter to explain, otherwise, they can be held administratively liable for exceeding…the carrying capacity of Boracay Island.”

A tourism official who requested anonymity said there were a lot of visitors to Boracay by land, especially coming from Region 6 composed of mainland Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, Capiz, and Negros Occidental.

While he confirmed the breach, Bautista said the island has been without visitors for the past two years, and as such it was “expected” there was going to be an influx of visitors during the long Lenten break. He told ANC in an interview on Tuesday that resorts on the island will be engaged to help monitor the number of visitors island, to ensure there would be no more breaches in the carrying capacity.

There has been no statement so far from Miraflores, whose office controls the issuance of QR codes to tourists.

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