Department of Tourism (DOT) officials on Thursday said they will meet with local government officials of Aklan province for the possible opening of tourist destination Boracay Island to tourists from other areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
This followed the island’s reopening on June 16, but only for tourists from within Western Visayas as the local government unit wanted to firsttry out first health protocols they put in place.
“In two weeks, we will talk to them again and we will decide, and they will give us a recommendation if they are open to opening it up to other places that are also under modified GCQ,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said in a statement Thursday.
Boracay recently made news, not because of its reopening, due to an incident involving over 20 personnel of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) who broke health protocols when they went to the island for a party last weekend.
One of them, a woman originally assigned in Cebu and had just arrived at BFP Iloilo, had undergone coronavirus testing and was supposed to complete a 14-day quarantine. She broke isolation and went on the trip then tested positive for COVID-19 on June 14.
“Nag-test siya, pumunta ng Boracay, COVID-positive pala so talagang nagkalat ng lagim. Hindi lang ‘yung kasama niya dinamay niya, ‘yung hotel personnel at nakakaawa ‘yung nadamay niya na kailangang mag-home quarantine for 14 days, and I hope hindi sila nahawa (She took a test, went to Boracay and it turns out she’s COVID-positive so she really spread terror. She not only affected those with her, but even the hotel personnel who now need to go on home quarantine for 14 days, I hope they did not get the disease.),” Puyat said on ANC’s Headstart.
“Because of this incident, and COVID-free ang Boracay, ‘yun ang kagandahan nun… parang all set sila ‘yung unang magbubukas for domestic tourism tapos because of the kapabayaan? Ano ba naman ‘yung maghintay kayo (Because of this incident, and Boracay is COVID-free, they were all set for reopening for domestic tourism then because of this neglect? What harm would it have been if they had waited?),” said Puyat.
Puyat said the hotel’s accreditation that accepted the BFP group has been revoked.
Puyat said the department is also talking with other LGUs for the possible reopening of tourism spots in places where government already eased further quarantine restrictions.
“In this case, under COVID though under modified GCQ, we really need the cooperation of the local government unit and we are working with them with protocols so finally when they allow tourists, everything will be in place, and everybody will be safe,” she said.
Puyat said tourism is now allowed in areas under modified GCQ. However, she noted that many local governments are still hesitant to open.
“Like for example Baguio, Mayor [Benjamin] Magalong. He said he is more comfortable in opening it September because he wants all protocols in place once everybody enters Bagiuo, everybody will be safe,” she said.
They are likewise looking at El Nido in Palawan.
“But again, the mayor still has not given her go-signal. We are in the process of talking to her because El Nido is already under modified GCQ,” she said./Stacy Ang