DOT backs recommendation to close down Boracay establishment breaching COVID-19 protocols

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
DOT backs recommendation to close down Boracay establishment breaching COVID-19 protocols
Left photo shows erring establishment Casa de Arte; Photo on the right shows empty famous white beach of Boracay.
Photo from Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat | AFP / Ernesto Cruz

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism on Thursday condemned the irresponsible Halloween party mass gathering in an establishment on Boracay island.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat earlier sent a video showing a Halloween party that was held at Casa de Arte, Sitio Cagban, Barangay Manoc-Manoc in Boracay. Visitors who attended the social gathering were seen failing to practice mandatory protocols such as wearing masks, physical distancing, among others.

In a statement, the DOT, also the co-vice-chair of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force said it, therefore, supports the recommendation to close down the erring establishment.

“The DOT supports the recommendation of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group to Malay Mayor Frolibar S. Bautista to close down the erring establishment in view of its lacking of business permit and necessary clearances as determined by the authorities,” it said in a statement.

Puyat said that while the party occurred in an establishment that does not require a DOT-accreditation, the DOT strongly reminds the local government, stakeholders as well as guests of the island to strictly observe the duly prescribed health and safety guidelines as determined by the Interagency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the BIATF.

Investigating alleged quarantine breach

In a report of the Malay Auxilliary Police Office (MAPO), it said that it received information regarding the “full moon party” last November 1. However, it said that they could not immediately act on the report due to the lack of a special permit for the event.

On November 3, Denise Sevilla of DOT Region 6 Boracay Field and Compliance Monitoring Office asked MAPO about the incident. MAPO subsequently conducted an investigation and determined that it was held in Casa de Arte.

MAPO conducted further probe to identify who organized the event from November 5 to 12. It learned that the gathering was organized by Joanne Santos, who’s temporarily staying at Sitio Bolabog, Boracay island.

On November 14, Santos accepted the violation ticket for her violation of the municipality’s ordinance on non-essential mass gathering.

Municipal Ordinance No. 412 Series 2020, Art Sec. 3, Letter J states that violators of this ordinance will be fined P2,500.

Santos also violated Municipal Ordinance on Mandatory Wearing of Face Mask and Strict physical discipline and was fined another P2,500.

This Municipal Ordinance No. 417, said first offense will be subject to a fine of P2,500 or an imprisonment of one to two months or both at the discretion of the court.

Private property

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to Frolibar Bautista, acting mayor of Malay in Aklan, Jade’s Casa de Arte, apologized for the non-essential mass gathering.

“In behalf of the celebrant and her party organizer, I apologize for the untoward incident that happened at the Celebrant’s birthday celebration at our Casa de Arte property,” Del Nano, managing Casa de Arte wrote.

Nano explained that the property is under a long-term lease since the owners have repatriated to Taiwan.

“The property currently is idle and we allow some friends to use the property for private celebration. However, our conditions to allow use of the property include, but not limiting for strict observance and practice of the health protocol but also the safety of our artwork pieces, paintings and artistic ethnic furniture in the main house….This ensures us that crowd is limited only to the residents and in controlled number,” the property’s statement dated November 16, read.

“Again, we sincerely apologize for the unintended and unfortunate mistake of the Celebrant and her guests,” it added.

Signage in the entrance of Casa de Arte listed reminders to visitors that mask is required in its facility, follow six feet physical distance, wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer or alcohol.

Following this incident, Puyat called on the LGUs to take the health and safety protocols seriously.

“We are appealing to our LGUs to please cooperate with us in the safe and responsible reopening of our tourist destinations. The jobs and livelihoods that were recently restored in these sites will be affected once again if an outbreak occurs in the area due to the LGU’s negligence,” she concluded.

Boracay opened to tourists from general community quarantine areas last October 1.The DOT then said only those without underlying medical conditions and those with negative RT-PCR results will be allowed to enter the island through the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan.

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