Businesses still ‘confused’ over Boracay re-opening plans

Residents of Aklan run on Boracay beach after being granted the privilege of taking the first steps on the island’s white sand during the soft opening on Monday, October 15. Philstar.com photo by Walter Bollozos

The government’s guidelines for popular tourist spot Boracay Island still have many Boracay businesses confused.

Elena Brugger, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Boracay, said in a DZRH interview on Tuesday, October 16, that many establishments are still unaware of the progress of their permit applications.

“Hinihingi ng business sector na bigyan kami ng kopya. Be transparent. We in the business sector have the right to know. Confused pa ang business community dahil marami pa ring hindi naklaruhan. (The business sector is asking for a copy [of compliant businesses]. Be transparent. We in the business sector have the right to know. The business community is confused because there are a lot of things that need to be clarified),” she said.

Boracay was partially opened for local tourists on Monday, October 15, and it will be officially opened to the public again on October 26. This is six months after it was closed down due to environmental problems caused by tourism-related businesses dumping raw sewage directly into the ocean.

According to Brugger, the bulk of the applications stay on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) desk because they have to review of compliance to five laws.

“Ni-lift na ng DENR ang [suspension] ng ECC (environmental compliance certificate) pero hindi pa rin klaro. Meron pa ring mga nakapila pa rin na naghihintay ng certificate of compliance. (DENR has lifted the suspension of the ECC but it’s still not clear. There are still some businesses waiting for their certificate of compliance),” she said.

The suspension of the ECC has already been lifted by the DENR. It also issued 159 Certificates of Conditional Approval to businesses that are 90 to 95 percent compliant with environmental laws.

Businesses can only proceed to get accreditation from the Department of Tourism after the DENR’s green light.

“We want transparency because we want to work together and cooperate since Day 1. They should have told us from the very start the guidelines kasi marami pang agam-agam ‘yung iba (because others are still unsure),” Brugger said.

Only the list of 68 hotels and resorts (with 3,519 rooms) approved as of October 12 were provided by the government, as reported by Rappler. The government will be limiting the number of accredited establishments in order to bring down the total number of rooms in the island to 8,355 from 14,456 rooms prior to the tourist spot’s closure.

The decision will affect the Philippines, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia estimated that the country would lose P1.96 billion due to this.

Despite Boracay Island’s closure, international tourist arrivals in the country rose by 9.7 percent to 4.3 million visitors for the period January-July 2018 compared to its level in the same period last year, as stated by the Department of Trade and Industry. Tourism officials are confident that the Philippines can achieve its target of 7.5 million by the end of the year. (AJPress)

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