DOT reiterates call: Follow, respect environmental laws
Tourism chief’s reminder came amid an increase in June’s tourist arrivals
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat reiterated President Duterte’s call to local government units of other destinations such as Cebu, Bohol and Palawan to follow environmental laws and avoid the tragedy that befell on Boracay Island.
“The Boracay experience is an ultimate lesson in balancing development and protecting the environment. Other destinations are now being evaluated and shall receive equal attention from the Department so that they will not suffer the same fate as the island,” said Puyat in a speech delivered during the launching of Cebu Pacific’s sustainable tourism program on July 31.
Asked if Cebu is in the list of these destinations, Puyat said “all destinations are currently being evaluated” and are mandated to strictly follow environmental laws.”
“When I was in Mactan (Lapu-Lapu City), (I observed that) the private sector are already policing themselves. We just want to reiterate the President’s call. He has called on the LGUs to do your jobs. Do not wait for us (to step in). Follow and comply with all environmental laws,” she said.
In an interview with reporters, Puyat also revealed that tourism arrivals in June 2018 increased by 11.35 percent from the same period last year despite the closure of Boracay island, the country’s top tourist destination.
The world famous island was closed to the public last April 26, 2018 for a six-month rehabilitation and redevelopment program.
“Imagine that the closure of our number one tourist destination did not affect tourist arrivals in the country. What more when Boracay opens so we are excited,” she said.
Lance Gokongwei, president and chief executive officer of Cebu Pacific Air, said the increase in tourist arrivals was also due to the rise of other destinations such as Siargao, Busuanga and Dumaguete.
“We saw the opportunity to redeploy the aircrafts flying to Boracay to other destinations. Busuanga, Siargao, Negros Oriental … those destinations that were not quite in the limelight suddenly sprouted,” he said.
“This is good because it is creating opportunities to build more legs to our tourism strategy. It’s not just Boracay and Cebu. Now there are four to five (more destinations),” added Gokongwei.
Puyat said Boracay attracted almost two million international tourists and nearly one million local visitors last year because of its powdery-sand beaches and pristine waters.
She said it earned P56.147 billion in 2017.
“The President was certainly aware of the implications of shutting down this renowned tourist destination but decisive action and strong political will is necessary to address its deterioration,” said Puyat.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Sherwin Rigor said they were in the process of getting Boracay ready for its October 26 opening.
“The last three months, as of July 26, was focused on environmental recovery. The second half of the six-month period will be dedicated to the island’s reopening,” he said.
Rigor said DENR, DOT, Department of Transportation (DoTr) and National Economic Development Authority (Neda) would meet today (August 2) for a planning session to discuss a possible dry run before the island would officially reopen on October 26.
Puyat said they were also talking to the country’s top advertising agencies to reintroduce Boracay to both foreign and domestic tourists.
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