Bohol guv orders suspension of trips to Panglao's Virgin Island

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 02 2022 06:21 PM | Updated as of Aug 02 2022 09:27 PM

Courtesy: Vilma Uy
Courtesy: Vilma Uy

BOHOL (UPDATED) — Bohol Gov. Aris Aumentado on Tuesday ordered the immediate temporary suspension of trips to Panglao's Virgin Island as the local government investigates reports of allegedly overpriced seafood sold there.

Aumentado issued the order following a viral social media post on an alleged incident wherein tourists were billed P26,000 for their meal on the island.

The governor told ABS-CBN News that his office was alarmed upon learning about the report, adding that he had already called for an emergency meeting to discuss the alleged incident. 

“Nakita namin na overpricing talaga. We will fix this. Nakakahiya naman sa ating mga turista,” he said over the phone.

(We saw that it was indeed overpricing. We will fix this. It's embarrassing for our tourists.)

Aumentado said he will also call the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the agency that is supposedly in charge of taking care of Virgin Island.

“Sila naman nagbigay ng go-signal na papasukin ang mga turista even if it is a protected area. They have to also immediately stop accepting visitors,” he said.

(They were the ones who gave a go-signal to allow tourists into the island even though it is a protected area.)

The governor said they are also considering a review of the boat tours to Balicasag Island, also in Panglao, after receiving numerous complaints following the Virgin Island incident.

DENR in Region 7 said it is also currently investigating the excessive charging of food meals by vendors on Virgin Island in Panglao, Bohol. 

In a statement, DENR-7 said Bohol Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PEN) Officer Ariel Rica is coordinating with the local government unit of Panglao, together with the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of Panglao Island Protected Seascape (PIPS), on this matter.

"In a memorandum dated 2 August 2022, PENRO Bohol is instructed to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation and to submit categorical recommendations not later than 3 August 2022,” it read. 

Virgin Island is within the PIPS, which was created pursuant to RA 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems (E-NIPAS) Law.

Meanwhile, a Panglao councilor plans to file measure to summon DENR personnel.

“My family owns the island connected to the sandbar. So we used to take care of it. Tourists then were only allowed to swim and take photos. When the pandemic hit and we laid off some workers, apparently nobody policed them in erecting structures in the attraction,” said Panglao Councilor JayR Rodriguez.

Local officials in Bohol, including Panglao's chief executives, members of the Provincial Tourism Office, and the Provincial Board's committee on tourism, visited Virgin Island on Tuesday to investigate the allegation.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Central Visayas regional director Shalimar Tamano said his office will not intervene on the issue as the local government of Bohol is already looking into the matter.

— reports from Annie Perez