Covid-free Boracay promises ‘safe’ tourism amid pandemic
By Azer Parrocha
Famous Boracay Islands white beach (File photo)
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) – Boracay is currently virus-free and local officials are going to make sure it is going to stay that way in order to revive tourism in the world-famous tourism destination, a Palace official said Monday.
In a press briefing from Boracay, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque encouraged local tourists to visit the beach island, adding that the long lockdown has allowed time to put in place stricter health and safety protocols.
“Panahon na po para tayo naman po ay magbakasyon matapos ang napakatagal na lockdown lalung-lalo na sa Metro Manila. Naghihintay na po ang pinakamagandang beach sa buong mundo – Boracay – open for business (It’s time to go on a vacation after a long lockdown especially in Metro Manila. The most beautiful beach in the world is waiting, it’s open for business),” Roque said.
Governor Florencio Miraflores, in the same briefing, assured tourists that medical staff are ready to attend to suspected Covid-19 cases, complete medical facilities are available, and a hotline can easily be reached.
“Safe na safe ang Boracay kasi hanggang ngayon Covid-free pa rin ang island ng Boracay (Boracay is very safe because until now the island remains Covid-free),” he said.
Over 50 tourists have so far visited the beach island over the weekend, but Miraflores is hoping that this number would improve in the next few weeks and months.
He said several hotels and accommodations are also offering up to 75 percent discounts for rooms so that visitors have enough pocket money to undergo mandatory reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
“Napagkasunduan na para ma-offset iyong RT-PCR test na medyo may kamahalan ay nag-agree ang mga tour operators at saka tourist establishments na magbibigay sila ng as much as 75 percent discount on room rates (We agreed that to offset the price of the RT-PCR test which is a bit expensive, tour operators and tourist establishments agreed to give as much as a 75 percent discount on room rates),” he said.
Since tourism is one of the hardest-hit industries by the outbreak, Roque was “saddened” about several tourism industry workers in Boracay losing their jobs during the pandemic.
“Medyo nalulungkot ako na ang daming nawalang ng trabaho dito siyempre dahil sa pandemya (I’m a bit sad that there are many who lost their jobs here of course because of the pandemic),” he said.
Roque said he wanted to lure more visitors in the beach island to help tourism workers and communities whose livelihoods were affected by the pandemic.
“Kaya kami naririto, ay engganyuhin iyong ating mga kababayan ‘no; dahil kapag hindi po tayo bumisita sa Boracay, ang mga eroplano na walang laman, ikakansela ang mga flights. Kapag nangyari po iyon, magiging mas mahirap nang pumunta sa Boracay at mas maraming mga negosyong malulugi at baka tuluyan nang magsara (We’re here to entice our citizens to visit because if they don’t visit Boracay, airplanes would not have any passengers and flights would be canceled. If that happens, it will be more difficult to visit Boracay and businesses would go bankrupt and would eventually close),” he said.
Roque, meanwhile, assured tourism industry workers that the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 and the proposed PHP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 will also finance soft loans for workers displaced by the pandemic.
“Mayroon po tayong PHP4 bilyon na nasa loob ng Bayanihan 2 na nakalaan para sa turismo, sa sector ng turismo (We have PHP4 billion which is part of Bayanihan 2 allocated for the tourism sector),” he said. “Mayroon pa ring mga bagong mga tulong na nakalagay po or provided doon sa ating 2021 proposed budget (There are also aid provided in our 2021 proposed budget).”
Currently, travelers visiting Boracay will be subject to the test-before-travel regulation that requires a negative RT-PCR result 48 to 72 hours prior to departure.
Airlines are required to land at the Godofredo R. Ramos Airport in Caticlan, Municipality of Malay, the only airport of entry in moving tourists to the island. (PNA)