By Ben Rosario
The House Committee on Tourism yesterday has received assurances from government that local officials in Boracay will be tasked to account for the P3-billion environment fees they have collected and will be prosecuted if found to have pocketted the money.
In a press conference, Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez said the House panel supports the plan to temporarily close Boracay island to give way to its rehabilitaion.
Gomez revealed that officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources explained during an executive session that they are taking steps to hold into account local government officials responsible in the collection and disbursement of the P75 environment fee imposed on Boracay visitors.
Computations indicate that the total collected fees could reach P3 billion based on the an average of 1.5 million annual tourist visits.
According to Gomez the investigation into the disbursement of the funds has been conducted, with those involved in irregularities, if any, expected to be prosecuted.
Boracay is a barangay of the municipality of Malay in Aklan.
Torres said Boracay island has brought P60 billion in tourism receipts for the government and establishments in the premiere tourist spot of the country.
“A closure would then result in monthly losses estimated at P5 billiion. This is definitely a hefty sum and both business establishments and residents will suffer the consequences,” she explained.
According to her the economic implications of closure have been considered by the House panel but it has decided to “put more weight on the long-term viability and sustainability of tourism” in the Aklan island.
“Fixing Boracay now, however painful, is plainly necessary. Some establishments declare themselves compliant to all laws and regulations, and therefore claim immunity to retribution,” she said.
The House panel recommended the creation of a Philippine Sustainable Tourism Council that would address tourism issues and ensure sustainable development in tourism areas of the country.
Tags: Boracay, business establishments, House Committee, House committee probes use of P3B environment fees in Boracay, local government officials, Lucy Torres Gomez, Philippine Sustainable Tourism Council