Eduardo M. Año

Año warns Aklan LGUs on Boracay overcrowding

April 21, 2022 Jun I. Legaspi 74 views

FOLLOWING documented violations of Boracay Island’s carrying capacity for tourists last Holy Week, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año Thursday issued a stern warning to the provincial government of Aklan and the municipality of Malay, Aklan to ensure compliance to the daily visitor threshold “or be ready to receive Show Cause Orders (SCO) due to negligence.”

“Hindi tayo magdadalawang-isip na mag-issue ng SCO sa mga opisyal ng LGU (local government unit) na magsasawalang-bahala sa mga umiiral na kautusan sa isla ng Boracay. We cannot go back to square one especially now that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Our efforts to rehabilitate and reverse the ecological degradation of the island will all be futile if we become negligent in complying with the guidelines set by National Government,” Año said.

He urged both the Aklan provincial government and the Malay municipality – the two LGUs which have direct authority over the world-famous tourist destination, to intensify efforts and strictly observe the island’s daily threshold of 19,215 tourists.

It can be recalled that the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as chair, with DILG and the Department of Tourism (DOT) as co-chairs, set 19,215 as the carrying capacity of the island for tourists to ensure the ecological sustainability of Boracay.

The DILG Secretary said, “failure to comply with the recommended daily threshold may cause environmental risks and may reverse the accomplishments of government in rehabilitating Boracay Island.”

In a letter sent by DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat to Año, she said Boracay Island tourist arrivals for Maundy Thursday (April 14) reached 21,252 and 22,519 on Good Friday (April 15), which are way above the island’s limit.

On April 16, 2022, Puyat likewise appealed to DILG Secretary Año and DENR Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna to instigate appropriate actions regarding the violations and urged for strict implementation of preventive measures against COVID-19 that is also a “valuable step in driving a sustainable growth of tourism in the island.”

Issuing a clear warning to Aklan LGUs, the DILG Chief, through a DILG memorandum disseminated to Aklan LGUs, said that subsequent violations of the recommended limit of tourists in Boracay Island may merit the issuance of an SCO from the Department, regardless of the violation is deliberate or not.

“We must draw the line to ensure that our policies are being complied with on the ground. Kung kailangang mag-issue ng SCO para sa mga paglabag ay iyan po ang gagawin ng aming Kagawaran,” Año said.

He also disagreed with the statement of Malay Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista calling the tourist arrivals as “normal”.

“Hindi ito normal, ito ay paglabag sa umiiral na polisiya. Noong 2018 pa lamang at wala pang pandemiya, itinakda na natin kung ano ang kapasidad ng Boracay, kung gaano karami lamang ang puwedeng tanggapin na turista ng isla,” he added.

In the said memorandum, Año also directs its DILG Regional Offices to closely monitor the compliance of LGUs and to report any violations of tourism-related implementations and COVID-19 policies and protocols.

Meanwhile, DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya remind the residents and tourists of Boracay and Aklan province that the area is under the Alert Level 1 status, which still entails observance of Minimum Public Health Standards (MPHS).

“Muli po naming ipinapaalala sa ating mga kababayan sa Aklan na panatilihin ang pagsunod sa health protocols na itinakda natin. Magsuot pa rin ng face mask at mag-disinfect lagi. Huwag po tayong maging pabaya,” Malaya said.

“Ayaw po nating magkaroon ng surge sa ating COVID-19 cases kaya hinihikayat ko po ang lahat na kahit mas may kalayaan na tayong mamasyal ngayon at pumunta sa iba’t-ibang lugar sa bansa, panatilihin pa rin natin ang disiplina dahil hindi pa tapos ang pandemiya,” he added.