DOT tightens health, safety protocols in Boracay

Published June 18, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hanah Tabios

The Boracay quarantine breach has created a negative impact on the supposed resumption of businesses in the island.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat revealed Thursday that only seven tourists visited the island on its reopening date in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

This photo taken on June 17, 2020 shows a policeman standing guard along the empty famous white beach of Boracay Island, as community quarantine against COVID-19 still continues throughout the country, with foreign tourists still banned on beaches. (Photo by Ernesto CRUZ / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)
This photo taken on June 17, 2020 shows a policeman standing guard along the empty famous white beach of Boracay Island, as community quarantine against COVID-19 still continues throughout the country, with foreign tourists still banned on beaches. (Photo by Ernesto CRUZ / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

This is opposite to what the tourism department has been expecting since locals from the region expressed excitement upon learning that the world-famous local travel destination will now be taking in guests from selected provinces.

“Nakakapanghinayang lang kasi lahat excited na magbukas ang Boracay,” Puyat said in an interview with the Manila Bulletin. (“It’s regrettable that this happened because many people were excited about the reopening of Boracay.”)

A staffer from the Bureau of Fire (BFP) Protection Western Visayas tested positive for COVID-19 while staying in Boracay from June 12 to June 14.

The infected person was with 24 other BFP personnel colleagues who went to the island at the time that the DOT was conducting an inspection to ensure that adequate health and safety protocols had been put in place.

In light of the reported violation, Puyat said she immediately ordered the revocation of the involved establishment’s DOT certificate to operate.

She also directed the tightening of the island’s pre-entry screening procedures, where tourists will also have to declare if they had undergone COVID-19 tests in the past and divulge the results as well to ensure safety for all.

The tourism chief could not hide her frustration over the incident as she said the establishments went the extra mile for the reopening. In fact, workers, including drivers, were very grateful that they would finally be able to resume work after a 3-month hiatus due to the prevailing health crisis.

The Malay local government unit clarified that they allowed the entry of the BFP personnel as they declared in their manifesto that they will be in Boracay for a “conference.” The said “conference” was the same event where the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force members, were present.

But Puyat said the illegal entry happened hours after they left Boracay at around 1p.m. The group arrived between 5 p.m to 6p.m. reports said.

She said the authorities later confirmed with her that the group threw a “despedida party” to one of its members in a 3-star hotel and resort. This was also heavily criticized on social media following the controversial “mañanita” involving some police officials.

Still fuming with anger, she said: “Three points lang ‘yan. They weren’t there for a conference, Boracay was still closed at that time, the hotel allowed them to stay. When you’re a government official dapat maingat ka talaga dahil you are the ones following the law.”

Meanwhile, according to a police report obtained by the Manila Bulletin, there was an attempt to cover up that the violator who tested positive for the coronavirus disease did not enter Boracay on the said period. There was no document also proving that she filled out a health declaration form at the hotel where they stayed.

“It is understandable that said person and the BFP will cover up this fact because she is supposed to be under quarantine in Iloilo City due to her history of travel from Cebu,” the police report read.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, who has been closely coordinating with the Malay police, also warned about the filing of cases against the BFP Western Visayas when it was later found out that the said person was not in her quarantine room.

“The BFP simply said she left and returned, not divulging any details where she went,” it added.

At present, all the alleged violators are now in quarantine, including the composite team formed by the DOT that was tasked to conduct an ocular inspection at Boracay.

All 24 staffers of the hotel and its other workers are now also undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine and the whole building is subjected to repeat decontamination.

 
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