THE government has unveiled its list of deliverables within the six-month closure of Boracay, giving a clearer picture of what the island’s locals and tourists should expect by the end of the shutdown.
Meanwhile, some “big hotels” in Boracay are keeping about 20 to 30 percent of their workforce despite the half-year closure for rehabilitation, a local official said Wednesday.
The island, known for its fine white sand beaches, will be closed to tourists next week after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a six-month closure.
Last month, a group of hotel and resort owners in Boracay said about 36,000 workers from the formal and informal sector would lose their jobs due to the closure of the island.
In related developments, the House of Representatives’ committee on tourism will recommend for plenary approval a bill seeking to create the Tourism Resiliency Certification Program.
This emerged after the committee, chaired by Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, approved House Bill 6093 following the government’s implemention of the six-month closure starting on April 26 to pave the way for Boracay’s rehabilitation.
The program, as provided in the bill, aims to prevent, mitigate and control possible damages arising from risks or threats to the tourism industry, such as violence, terrorism, and environmental degradation and climate change.
The bill, authored by Torres-Gomez, refers to the TRCP as a program that 1) identifies risks to the country’s tourism industry, 2) prescribes compliance measures, 3) establishes an appropriate metric system to determine certain acceptable levels of compliance, and 4) mandates the compliance of prescribed measures by all Registered Tourism Enterprises.
When Torres-Gomez filed the bill in August last year, the issue of Boracay’s environmental degradation had yet to hit the headlines.
Instead, Torres-Gomez said various incidents such as the attack on Resorts World Manila last year, the string of violence in Europe, and the Marawi crisis, in underscoring the need to protect the tourism industry from disastrous consequences of such circumstances.
Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing said Boracay might be opened earlier than the six-month schedule if the following goals were met:
1. Clean water discharge
Densing said that by July, there should be 30 consecutive days of clean water discharge into the sea which should meet the standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
2. Zero solid waste
There should also be no solid waste being brought to mainland Malay’s sanitary landfill, Densing said, as the government urged business establishments to practice proper waste segregation.
3. Fix bulabog’s drainage system
The situation in Boracay’s Bulabog beach, located on the eastern side of the island, is among the severe ones, with coliform levels reaching alarming levels.
Coliform bacteria are usually found in human and animal wastes or from decaying organisms. The problematic drainage system in the area has been blamed for the sorry state of the beach.
4. Clear shores of easement violators
Densing said one of the major goals during the island’s closure is to clear the island’s shore of structures violating the 30-meter easement rule.
5. Recover wetlands
The government is also aiming to recover at least 3 of the island’s 5 missing wetlands by July or August.
Some of the wetlands went missing after structures were allegedly built on top of them.
6. Widen roads
Densing said another goal is to complete the widening of the island’s 4.8-kilometer main road by 70 percent.
According to Torres-Gomez, “The bill intends to institute a fail-safe regulatory and administration system that will protect the tourism industry against critical, present-day threats, such as violence, terrorism, and also environmental degradation and climate change.”
The bill declares the paramount importance of protecting the tourism industry, one of the major drivers of socio-economic development in the Philippines, by supporting its fundamental performance indicators.
These indicators include the number of foreign and local visitors, earnings from foreign expenditure, product development, capital expenditure, among others.
Among others, the measure pointed out that ensuring the security of foreign and local tourists is a cornerstone for the survival and growth of the tourism industry.
The bill provides that the TRCP shall create a Philippine Tourism Risk Assessment Framework which shall identify actual and potential risks to the tourism industry, such as terrorism, violence, natural calamities, extreme weather, and other perceived threats.
The framework shall be outlined in the Act’s Implementing Rules and Regulations.
The TRCP shall also prescribe a specific set of compliance measures that shall address risks presented in the Philippine Tourism Risk Assessment Framework.
Similarly, the TRCP shall establish a compliance metric system to determine the level of compliance of RTEs and Tourism Enterprise Zones.
It shall mandate all RTEs and TEZs under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority to comply with the TRCP.
The creation of the TRCP shall be undertaken by a Technical Working Group to be participated in by representatives of all pertinent stakeholders and spearheaded by the Department of Tourism.
The TIEZA shall be the corporate body to oversee, regulate, implement and supervise the compliance and certification of RTEs and TEZs under the Act.
The bill designates DoT to be the lead organizer in the creation of the Philippine Tourism Risk Assessment Framework and the convention of the TWGs which shall create the measures and mechanics of the TRCP.
Additional funds shall be allocated to the DoT for these purposes.
The bill has received the endorsement of officials of the DoT, TIEZA, and Office of Civil Defense.