(SPOT.ph) The Philippine tourism industry, which takes pride in our country’s summer destinations, was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels, resorts, tour operators, and travel agencies were non-operational for three months—and, sadly, some companies just didn’t make it through. But starting on June 16, residents of Western Visayas can finally enjoy again Boracay's white-sand beaches. This comes after the Boracay Interagency Task Force approved the recommendation from the local government of Aklan to reopen the island, which has been under modified general community quarantine since June 1.
For the first phase of easing border restrictions, only locals between the ages of 21 and 59 from the six provinces of Region VI—Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental—will be allowed to enter Boracay Island.
"The tourists will be accommodated in hotels accredited by the Department of Tourism," Boracay Interagency Task Force Chair and Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said during the virtual briefing on June 11. But of the 390 accredited properties, only 98 have applied to reopen. "We are encouraging the others to please send in your letter of intent to operate. The DOT wants to give everyone the certificate of authority to operate," Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat added.
On June 1, Malay acting mayor Frolibar Bautista lifted the swimming ban for the island’s locals as long as the following guidelines are followed:
- Swimmers must register for the designated swimming area at the lifeguard station.
- Body temperature will be taken before swimming.
- Physical distancing should be observed.
- Renting of goggles and snorkeling masks is prohibited. Swimmers must use their own.
- Swimming is allowed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. only.
- Swimming in areas with red flag is not allowed.
- Areas designated for lounging and sunbathing are located after every 200-meter swimming-area mark.
- Beach walking is allowed as long as you're wearing a face mask.
Designated areas for swimming are:
- White House (Station 1)
- Willy's Rock (Station 1)
- Elizalde Compound (Station 1)
- D'Mall (Station 2)
- Mandarin Hotel (Station 2)
- La Carmela (Station 3)
- Paradise Garden (Station 3)
- Puka Beach (Barangay Yapak)
According to the Department of Health, there are 128 positive cases in Western Visayas as of June 11, 81 of which have recovered, with 10 casualties.