FILIPINOS going to Boracay Island for the long Halloween-All Saints’ Day break will have an easier time entering the tropical paradise.
Aklan Governor Jose Enrique “Joen” M. Miraflores issued Executive Order No. 047 on October 25, 2022, lifting the implementation of the quick response (QR) code requirement for tourists entering the province, including those going to Boracay, which is part of the municipality of Malay.
Miraflores said this was “in response to the pronouncement of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on tourism as engine of growth, local government units of tourist destinations shall start the easing of travel requirements for tourists.” The EO takes effect on October 29, 2022, just in time for the so-called Undas break. Boracay is currently the top tourism destination of the country, especially for domestic travelers. Earlier, the Aklan local government unit (LGU) also eased the masking mandate for outdoor activities, except for seniors and those immunocompromised.
The governor, however, failed to respond to questions from the BusinessMirror asking how the LGU would monitor arrivals and ensure that tourists don’t exceed the 19,125 daily carrying capacity of the island, especially with the All Saints’ holiday break a peak period for visitors in Boracay.
Monitoring thru terminal fees
For her part, Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director for Western Visayas Christine Mansinares said, “On the province’s end, [they will be enable to monitor the guest arrivals] through the terminal fee collection. They have an enhanced tax revenue assessment and collection system.” A meeting with the Malay LGU was ongoing when this paper contacted the DOT official. She was unable to respond to a question on measures that would be taken if the carrying capacity is exceeded again.
Last Holy Week, the DOT had to call the attention of the LGU after local records showed the carrying capacity had been exceeded on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Boracay stakeholders have since been calling for an increase in the island’s carrying capacity, taking into consideration its rehabilitation.
From January to October 9, some 1.4 million tourists arrived on Boracay Island, 33 percent of whom were from the National Capital Region. Over 100,000 were foreign tourists consisting of overseas Filipinos and foreign nationals.
‘Deal only with accredited guides, TAs’
Meanwhile, the Malay-Boracay Tourism Office encouraged visitors to “deal with only DOT-accredited travel and tour agencies and guides…to avoid scams and illegal transactions of unregistered tourism entities.” It published a list of the 96 accredited tour guides and travel agencies on its Facebook page. The office likewise shared a list of the 376 DOT-accredited accommodation establishments on Boracay.
In a statement, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Boracay Island said, it “appreciates and supports the province of Aklan and municipality of Malay’s quick and positive response regarding the ease of entry restrictions for international and Boracay arrivals.”
The group of business owners said the development “continues to boost the tourism industry, an integral part of the Philippine economy, and further supports the efforts of the national government to revitalize the tourism sector.”
PCCI-Boracay was at the forefront in calling for the scrapping of Aklan’s QR code system and the redefinition of fully vaccinated tourists, as those having received primary doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. They said, these restrictions were causing foreign tourists to skip Boracay and the Philippines, in favor of other tourism destinations in Asia. (See, “Philippines losing out to Thailand and Bali with restrictions to tourists,” in the BusinessMirror, October 17, 2022.)
The Tourism Congress of the Philippines had also called for the use of the One Health Pass (OHP) in Boracay, in lieu of Aklan’s QR code system. The OHP has since been replaced by the e-arrival card.