DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat declared recently that Boracay island will be the pilot project for sustainable tourism and environmental practices for all the top tourist destinations of the country.
“Yes, definitely, that will be the model, the pilot so we will make sure that all environmental laws will be complied with, 100%. DENR Secretary Cimatu has commissioned scientists to do a study that includes carrying capacity and Boracay will be the model for other destinations that will undergo study. We are looking at all the major tourist destinations for the carrying capacity to make sure they will follow environmental laws,” Puyat said during the second day of the Philippines Dive Travel Mart, an event that promotes the country’s dive destinations.
Boracay consistently voted as the number one island beach destination in the world, was closed on April 26 this year for six months by President Rodrigo Duterte. The move was to enable its rehabilitation from overtourism upon the recommendation of a government task force composed of the DENR, DOT, and DILG. Hotels and resorts were subjected to inspections for environmental violations, illegal sewage connections, the main road is undergoing widening, and transportation is being transformed to use less fuel.
Following the directive, the island is set to open its beaches to tourists on October 26 with a more environment-friendly complexion. In fact, only 3,000-5,000 rooms will be available out of the 15,000-room inventory as other hotels and resorts are still being vetted for compliance. As of press time, the first batch of compliant resorts that will open on October 26 are:
Astoria Current, AV Seven resort, Azalea Apartment Hotel, Best Western Boracay Tropics, Blue Coral Beach Resort, Boracay Haven Resort, Boracay Haven Suites, Boracay Holidays Beach Resort,Boracay Mandarin, Island Hotel, Canyon de Boracay, Casa Pilar Beach Resort, De Paris Beach Resort, Den Pasar Beach Resort, Discovery Shores, El Centro Beach Resort, Fairways and Bluewater Beach Resort, Ferra Hotel, Luana hotel/Hue Hotel, Nigi-nigi Nu Noos E Nu Nu Noos Beach Resort, Red Coconut Beach Hotel, Reef Retreat Resort,Starfire Resort, Surfside Boracay Resort and Spa, The Club Ten Beach Resort Boracay, The Lazy Dog,
There will be other establishments to follow as they complete DENR guidelines to be compliant as Secretary Puyat underlined the government’s dedication by stating that six months is not enough to rehabilitate the island given many issues like employment, resistance, infrastructure, and the number of violators.
“We have to restart the whole thing and tourists would have to be reintroduced to the environmental policies. For the resorts, compliance to DENR regulations will accrue to a DOT accreditation. Only compliant resorts and hotels are allowed to open, phase 2 is April 2019, phase 3 is December 2019,” Puyat revealed.
“We want to manage expectations because it doesn’t take just 6 months to rehabilitate the island. Sec Cimatu will be the one to give the final decision on the island’s carrying capacity though he sent us the draft already as he already commissioned scientists from U.P. to do the study,” she added.
DOT Undersecretary and concurrent Secretary’s Chief of Staff Art Boncato related that Inter-Agency cooperation is doing well with DPWH committing that the widening of the roads will be finished by the end of the year while TIEZA, an infra and development arm of DOT will finish another phase in the water and sewerage system expansion program in the island by 2019.
“It is doing well, we now have LGUs looking at ordinances and environmental policies, some sort of self-policing which is good. The theme under Secretary Puyat’s leadership is creating a culture of sustainable tourism.”
Boncato stated that DOTR is also included because they are part of the transportation network that is now getting new concepts with tricycles (e-trikes), DTI on livelihood, making sure stakeholders will follow ordinances.