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DOT, DILG, DENR talk as Boracay crowds threaten health and the environment

Rosette Adel - The Philippine Star
DOT, DILG, DENR talk as Boracay crowds threaten health and the environment
This February 2021 photo shows tourists in Boracay.
Malay Municipal Tourism Office / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines— The Department of Tourism said it is now in close coordination with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources tourist arrivals over Holy Week went beyond the carrying capacity allowed.

Reports said the Malay Tourism Office recorded a total of 21,252 tourist arrivals on April 14 and 22,519 on April 15.

The current carrying capacity of the island is 19,215. The number is meant to keep tourism's impact on the environment manageable and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a report of ABS-CBN, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the tourism arrival figures are way beyond the pre-pandemic numbers.

“‘Yung Laboracay 2019, 14,000 a day lang. So it’s a concern na ngayon over 21,000. Pandemic pa,” she was quoted by ABS-CBN news as saying. 'Laboracay' refers to the May 1 holiday that was a party tradition before the pandemic shut down tourism.

The Malay Tourism Office said Boracay tourist arrivals for April 1 to 16,2022 reached 95,646. Of these, 92,100 are domestic tourists, 1,213 are overseas Filipino workers/returning Filipinos and 2,333 are foreign travelers.

Aklan, where Boracay island is, is currently under COVID-19 Alert Level 1 until April 30, the most relaxed restriction welcoming tourists with eased restrictions as well.

Following the reported breach in carrying capacity, the DOT said it has "apprised" both the DILG and the DENR of the tourism overcapacity concern.

"We continue our coordination with them, especially the DILG, which has jurisdiction over the LGU, to address this concern and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future," the DOT said in a statement.

Puyat also reportedly said the mayor of Aklan must explain the breach in the tourist cap amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

DILG chief Eduardo Año, on the other hand, said the defined carrying capacity of the world-famous island must be followed.

“The LGU should implement it in order to ensure the safety and health of tourists and residents, and protect the environment,” he was quoted as saying.

In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the temporary closure of Boracay for six months to pave way for its rehabilitation, citing that it has cesspool-like waters.

It was closed from April 2018 and reopened to the public in October that year. The government then limited the number of tourists that can visit the island for environmental reasons.

The tourist destination was also closed to visitors during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020 until June of that year.

In October last year, then DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said the agency is looking at increasing the carrying capacity of the island to accommodate more tourists.

"If there's a study, the carrying capacity might be increased," the resigned environment chief said.

Cimatu said DENR’s DENR's Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) will be the body tasked to determine if the number of visitors on the island increased.

BERNADETTE ROMULO-PUYAT

BORACAY

DENR

DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM

DILG

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