SHUTTING down Boracay will result in losses amounting to P56 billion, stakeholders said on Thursday, as they suggested rehabilitation instead of closure of businesses on the popular island resort.
The Philippine Tour Association (Philtoa), Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), Boracay Foundation, and the Organization of Hotel Sales and Marketing Professionals (HSMA) made the proposal, citing tourism receipts from January to September 2017.
“The salability of the Philippines as a tourism destination vis-a-vis its competitors in the region will be greatly compromised by a closure. All the hard work and marketing efforts of the tourism industry over the years will all come to naught, while our regional competitors will reap the benefits as tourists divert their travels elsewhere,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
“It is undeniable that Boracay is the centerpiece of a visitor’s trip. The fact that Boracay is portrayed as an environmental disaster will speak not just of the island, but of the Philippines as a destination as a whole, because if it can happen to the No. 1 tourism destination product of the country, then it can happen to the rest of our tourism offerings,” the organizations added.
Instead of closure, the stakeholders proposed that the government allow 60 days for establishments to rectify, clean up and rehabilitate their respective properties. Only those found to have violated environmental laws and zoning regulations should be closed.
“If efforts made are not enough, then and only then will a closure be effected. If timelines are followed, said closure to happen in June 2018, in time for the so-called Low/Habagat season,” they said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has likened Boracay to a “cesspool” amid reports that business establishments on the island were responsible for destroying the environment in the popular island resort.
‘Go to Boracay’
Malacañang on Thursday urged the public to still visit Boracay Island this coming Holy Week, assuring them that the country’s prime tourist destination would not be closed down during peak season.
In a news conference, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said President Rodrigo Duterte did not give any specific directive regarding the closure of Boracay island.
“No specific instruction has been made by the President. And if he has made a decision, then I would most certainly be the first to announce. So right now, there’s not been any decision. Right now, it’s status quo. There’s a recommendation but the President will act on it,” Roque told reporters.
“Proceed to Boracay, especially since it’s Holy Week. I don’t think any closure will happen during the peak season of Boracay,” the Palace official added.
Roque gave the assurance amid the recommendation of a joint task force led by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for the closure of Boracay Island for one year to give the government enough time to clean it up.
On Tuesday, March 20, Duterte expressed support to the recommended one-year closure of Boracay, even if it would take “a little bit longer,” so as to allow the government to restore the island to its pristine condition.
REICELENE IGNACIO AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE