By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Malay, AKLAN — Cabinet officials are bent on pushing for a total closure of the Boracay Island here to pave the way for its rehabilitation.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Teo on Thursday stood firm on the proposal to shut down business operations in the famous tourist spot for two months.
In a meeting with concerned government agencies and stakeholders in Boracay ahead of the Senate hearing on Friday, Teo said this will allow the government to work “fast” on the rehabilitation of the island which is faced with environmental degradation.
Teo said the closure would coincide with the country’s rainy season when tourist arrivals are low. During the meeting, she proposed that the shut down be implemented from June 1 to July 31.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Eduardo Año supported this call, heeding President Duterte’s order to bring back the pristine condition of the island within six months.
Año, however, maintained that the proposals are still a “work in progress” as they are still assessing the island.
“There are many options. We’re thinking of closure, a shut down of all (business operations), so we can do what we have to do,” he said.
The two Cabinet members said they will raise the recommendation in a meeting with President Duterte.
With the proposed shut down, all resorts in the island — whether or not compliant with environment laws — would not be allowed to receive tourists.
But Teo clarified that they are giving the businesses the opportunity to take advantage of the summer season to take in tourists.
“Everybody will be affected but in the long run it will be for the benefit of (all). We have to rehabilitate Boracay now, otherwise masisira nang tuluyan,” she said.
Teo said they would convince tour operators to limit bookings until summer, or rebook guests to other destinations.
As for tourists who have scheduled their trip during the rainy season, the DOT chief said she would tap airline companies to allow them to rebook without additional charges, or refund their tickets.
“We have to tell them that there are other destinations na they could see, the same as Boracay. They should go to other destinations for the meantime. This is temporary while we are fixing Boracay,” Teo said.