DTI seeks possible Boracay shutdown in phases

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 02 2018 01:02 PM | Updated as of Jan 07 2019 11:15 AM

MANILA - Malacañang has asked 3 government agencies to submit a more detailed document justifying their recommendation to close Boracay to tourists starting April 26 to give way to rehabilitation efforts.

The interior, tourism, and environment departments earlier recommended Boracay’s closure for at least 6 months, starting April 26, in order to address the sorry state of the island paradise’s environment.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the 3 departments sent to Malacañang a short letter recommending the shutdown and the Office of the President wants these departments to back this with more data, considering that the livelihoods of thousands of people are at stake.

Guevarra said while rehabilitating the island is President Rodrigo Duterte’s “overwhelming consideration” for possibly approving Boracay’s closure, the chief executive is also considering other factors in coming up with his decision on the matter.

“It’s the economic impact on the island and the people residing and working there that has to be considered by the President,” he said.

"[It’s] not only the environment, but the people, their livelihood and businesses. All of these will have to be taken into account.”

Guevarra also revealed the Department of Trade and Industry has recommended a phased rehabilitation of the island, noting the possible impact of Boracay’s temporary closure to business establishments.

He said while the fate of the workers in the island is a major factor, “we have to think of the years to come, the younger generation.”

“Some sacrifices have to be made but we must not lose sight of the fact that this is for the long term.”

Duterte, who has described Boracay as a cesspool, earlier said he is amenable to a 6-month closure of the island to allow its rehabilitation.

Businesses and workers have been anxiously waiting for the government’s decision on Boracay, especially that the proposed April 26 shutdown comes before the annual Labor Day parties in the island which drive thousands of tourists.

A shutdown of Boracay Island could lead to job losses for 36,000 people and P56 billion in lost revenue, stakeholders earlier said, as they appealed for a partial, instead of a full closure.

Some 19,000 people work in the formal sector including hotels, resorts, restaurants, dive shops, souvenir shops, tour activity centers, and transport providers, data from the Boracay Foundation showed.

Another 17,000 work in the informal sector as massage therapists, tattoo artists and vendors by the beach, data showed.

Around P56 billion in tourism revenue will be lost if the island is closed for 9 months, based on the island's revenue during the first 9 months of 2017, data showed. This is equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the country's total tourism receipts.

Boracay is one of the Philippines' top 8 tourist destinations, according to the Department of Tourism. In 2017, there some 3.72 million people flew to the island, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.