By Mario Casayuran
After Boracay, the next tourist spot requiring rehabilitation is Baguio, the pine city.
Senator Richard J. Gordon, a former Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary, revealed this to Senate reporters after attending a hearing of the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT).
During the hearing, Gordon pointed out the “defects” or “shortcomings” and the good side of the tourism plans of the DOT when its secretary, Bernadette Fatima Romulo-Puyat, appeared before a Senate committee to defend her department’s proposed 2019 budget of P3.329 billion budget.
Senators Joseph Victor “JV”Ejercito had pointed out that Baguio is overloaded with tourists, the same reason for the April closure of Boracay, the country’s premier resort.
Baguio old hands had complained that the pine city is overloaded with residents and tourists and its infrastructures are breaking at their seams. The usual smell of pine trees is no longer in the air, they added.
After Sen. Juan Edgardo M. Angara, chairman of the Senate finance sub-committee C approved the DOT budget on the committee level,Puyat told Senate reporters that the first phase of the opening of the hitherto closed Boracay is October 26.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, head of the Boracay task force, told Senate reporters last Wednesday that the dry run for the opening of Boracay would be on Oct. 16, with the first batch of 1,000 foreign tourists on the first day, the second set of 1,000 on the second day, and the third set of 1,000 on the third day.
The dry run will end on Oct. 25.
Puyat said the second phase would be in April, 2019 while the third and last phase will be in December, 2019.
She said Senator Gordon agreed with her that “you cannot just rehabilitate an island in six months.”
The sewerage system worth P1.1 billion would also be completed in December, 2019, she added.
The island has a carrying capacity of 6,000 tourists.
“Never again should Boracay be overloaded,” Gordon said after Puyat revealed that she has talked to the Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia to reduce the flights either to Aklan or to Caticlan.
Puyat said her department is coordinating with the Civil Aeronautics Board and local government units on this plan to limit the number of airline flights to these two airports in a bid to regulate the number of tourists coming in.