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Grand New Year’s Eve bash seen to lure Boracay tourists

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THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has cleared the way for an explosive New Year’s Eve celebration on Boracay Island, acclaimed by international travel publications among the best islands in the world.

Local resort owners hope the fireworks-filled New Year’s Eve celebration would further boost its tourist arrivals, which stood at some 1.64 million from January to December 10, 2022. Data from Department of Tourism-Region 6 (Western Visayas) showed, of the total, 111,488 were foreign tourists while 33,675 were overseas Filipinos. Most of the tourists, at 36 percent, arrived from the National Capital Region; 280,698 were from Region 6; and 270,476 from 4-A (Calabarzon).

Meanwhile, DOT-Region 6 will be sending personnel to the Caticlan port, after it was revealed that a P100-travel insurance was being forcibly collected from tourists before they were allowed to travel to the island

Designated areas

In a letter dated December 13, 2022 to Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista, DENR-6 Regional Executive Director Livino Duran specified conditions for the community fireworks in Boracay: “That it should be located at least 100 meters from the coastline…and not within the front beach area; That it should only use pyrotechnics duly allowed by the Philippine National Police; [and] That cleanup and sweeping shall be conducted after the community fireworks activity to ensure that no remaining debris shall clutter the area.”

Duran said his office will monitor the air quality during the activity to ensure the island remains pollution-free.

Six areas were identified as locations for the community fireworks: Punta Bunga, and in front of Discovery Shores, Astoria Station 1, Regency Hotel, Paradise Garden Hotel, Villa Caemilla, and Bulabog Beach/Aqua Boracay/7 Stones Hotel, and New Coast Boracay.

The last New Year’s Eve celebration with pyrotechnics on the island was in 2018.

The Duterte-created Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force prohibited the use of fireworks at any time of the year due to air pollution concerns, even when the island was reopened after a six-month closure, supposedly to give way to its rehabilitation.

Boracay Foundation Inc., the oldest group of resorts stakeholders on the island welcomed the decision of the DENR. Its chair Dindo Salazar told the BusinessMirror in Filipino, “Whichever resort has the resources to mount a fireworks display, it can do so. It was the same as before, resorts solely spent for the fireworks celebration. The only difference now is that there are identified areas. But I think, those areas which were not designated can send a letter of intent to the mayor.”

Complaints on insurance fee

As this developed, DOT-6 Regional Director Cristine Mansinares told this paper,  “I’ll deploy DOT staff there,” to ensure travel insurance was not being forcibly collected from tourists.  A number of them have griped to friends on the island that they were already being charged the fee, while booking their hotel accommodations. One island resident shared, “I have the receipts” as proof of  payments.

Accredited insurers

Despite the insurance offer, Boracay only has two hospitals, both of which are not Level-3 institutions, however. For high-level emergencies and surgical interventions, patients have to travel to Kalibo, three hours away from Caticlan.

Mansinares said the Malay local government unit has accredited Dragon Gem to sell the travel insurance products to tourists, from the following insurers: Sterling Insurance Co. Inc., Cocogen Insurance Inc., Liberty Insurance Corp., and Bethel General Insurance and Surety Corp.

National tourism stakeholders’ organizations have decried the new insurance fee, as being an additional burden to their clients, when the latter already pay other fees for their stay in Boracay. Aside from the insurance fee, tourists also pay an environmental fee of P150 (foreigners P300), a terminal fee of P150, and boat transfers of P50 per head—for a total of P450. (See, “New insurance rule for Boracay visitors,” in the BusinessMirror.)

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