Compliant resorts can remain open during Boracay closure, but…

Photo of a deserted Boracay beach from CNN Philippines

COMPLIANT resorts in Boracay will be allowed to operate after April 26, the possible date of closure of the island. The punch line is, tourists won’t be able to set foot on it and will be physically blocked at the jetty port, according to an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“We’re not shutting down the businesses on the island, that’s clear,” DILG Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs Epimaco V. Densing III said in an interview with CNN Philippines’s The Source. “Those who are compliant can still be open. Those who are noncompliant, we will close them. The irony is, we will block their guests at the jetty port. We will have a system where foreign and local tourists will not be allowed to enter the island. [Compliant resorts] can operate; they just won’t have guests.”

This developed as the Department of Tourism (DOT) said it was already reaching out to popular online travel-booking sites to help tourists rebook their vacations in Boracay without penalty.

In text message to the BusinessMirror, DOT Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Communications and Special Projects Frederick M. Alegre said: “Communications with them are ongoing. We started with TripAdvisor because we have an ongoing project with them.”

Other popular booking sites include Agoda, Hotels.com and Booking.com, which have varying policies on issuing refunds for customers, which depend on a site’s agreement with the individual hotels.

But he expressed confidence that these booking sites will allow refunds due to “force majeure, because it’s a much-needed environmental cleanup from human-induced damage.”

He added that local airlines have already said they would issue refund on tickets issued to Boracay-bound passengers and waive rebooking fees. “If the airlines can do it, why not the hotels and resorts, and tour operators?” Alegre asked.

According to Agoda, “A force majeure event is any event beyond the ‘Covered Parties’ control and can include, but not limited to, natural disasters, weather conditions, fire, nuclear incident, electro-magnetic pulse, terrorist act, riots, war, arson attacks, insurgency, rebellion, armed hostilities of any kind, labor disputes, lockouts, strikes, shortages, government actions or restraints, pilferage, bankruptcy, machinery breakdown, network or system interruptions or breakdown, internet or communications breakdown, quarantine, epidemic, pandemic, etc.”

Research done by TripAdvisor showed that Boracay was the second most viewed city in the Philippines after Manila, for the period January 2015 to September 2017.

The research also noted that “travelers from the long-haul flight countries tend to click to book accommodation for their Philippines holidays over 70 days before their travel. On the other hand, markets like Singapore, China and South Korea click to book their stay less than two months prior to travel.”   The long-haul destinations include the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, reflecting the top long-haul tourist markets in Boracay.

Data from the DOT showed foreign tourists in Boracay last year reached some 1.05 million, most of whom came from China (375,284); South Korea (356,644); Taiwan (40,802); the US (22,648); Malaysia (20,585); the UK (17,416): Saudi Arabia ((15,944); Australia (15,365); Russia (14,074); and Singapore (9,897).

Task Force Boracay, which is composed of the DILG, DENR and DOT, has recommended to President Duterte to put Boracay under a state of calamity, and close it for six months to allow rehabilitation work to commence.

Meanwhile, Densing told this paper that local executives, who were sitting in office starting 2008, will be charged with administrative offenses for allowing the environmental and easement violations on the island. The  DOT determined that Boracay’s carrying capacity had been breached in 2008.

“The case buildup is from 2008…serious negligence of duty. Mayor [Ciceron] Cawaling is the same mayor during that time,” he stressed. John Yap was the mayor of Malay from 2010 to 2016, before being succeeded by Cawaling.

The DILG official was silent, however, on the culpability of local executives from the DENR who reportedly failed to enforce environmental laws, such as the Solid Waste Management Act and Clean Water Act. But DILG Officer in Charge Eduardo M. Año has said DENR officials would not be spared from his agency’s investigation.

Densing told CNN Philippines that the DILG has been gathering evidence on these local executives for the last three weeks. “We met last Friday with all the lawyers and the Boracay investigative unit of the DILG. We’ll be drafting a complaint by this week, and hopefully we can give the same complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman before April 14.”

He said those to be charged with administrative offenses, “initially, we’re looking at local chief executives, most probably the mayor, most probably the Municipal Council, wipe out sila, the barangay captains, and even the governor. The only thing is, the gathering of evidence on the governor isn’t complete.”

Carlito Marquez was the Aklan governor in 2008 until 2013, while Florencio Miraflores is the incumbent, and has been governor since 2014.

 

 

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