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Friday, April 12, 2024

New insurance rule for Boracay visitors

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TOURISM stakeholders are decrying the latest requirement of the Malay local government unit (LGU) requiring visitors to Boracay Island to pay P100 for travel insurance.

The new requirement not only covers a tourist’s accidental death/disablement, unprovoked murder and assault, accidental medical reimbursement, and medical evacuation, but also “accidental burial reimbursement.”

The additional requirement raises to at least P450 the total fees that Boracay tourists have to pay to have fun under the sun, and swim in the clean waters of the island. Aside from the P100 insurance, tourists have to pay P150 in environmental fees (P300 for foreigners); P150 in terminal fee, and P50 for boat fee.

In a statement sent to the BusinessMirror, Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose C. Clemente III said, “We find this imposition of ‘insurance’ to enter the island as another needless expense considering how much tourists have already shelled out to travel.”

He added, “Furthermore, the ambiguity of the ordinance has already caused confusion. It has not even been disseminated to most of the stakeholders, who send our guests to the island. We hope the municipality rethinks this requirement, which could give Boracay a black eye.”

The LGU, through the insurer, stands to collect P200 million from an estimated 2 million tourists that will be visiting Boracay annually.

Must or optional?

On its Facebook page, LGU Malay notified the public that starting November 23, 2022, it will be implementing Municipal Ordinance No. 444, series of 2021 or “an Ordinance Establishing an Insurance System that will Provide Protection Coverage that will Answer for Legal Liability for Bodily Injuries and for Death that may be Sustained by Tourists while Staying in the Island of Boracay.” It failed to post the ordinance itself, a copy of which was obtained by this paper.

Department of Tourism-Regional Director for Western Visayas Cristine Mansinares said in a Viber message, “They passed the ordinance last year, but did not fully implement it. It indicates that the insurance is optional.”

However, Mayor Frolibar Bautista in an interview with another publication over the weekend said, “Yes, tourists have to pay for insurance. It’s for their protection.” He added that “a private company,” which signed a memorandum of agreement with the LGU, is collecting the travel insurance. He did not reveal the name of the insurance company.

Depleted LGU funds

Former councilor Nenette Aguirre-Graf, who was among the members of the Sangguniang Bayan, which approved the ordinance said, “If the guest has accident insurance, they don’t need to pay for the travel insurance.”

She explained, “The resources of the LGU are being depleted for cases that they shouldn’t be paying for, as in the cases of visitors who have no money.” To which TCP’s Clemente responded, “No one goes to Boracay without bringing money.”

As per the municipal ordinance, “Only DOH [Department of Health] and LGU-accredited, through the Sangguniang Bayan, and with complete documentation insurance companies will be allowed to offer insurance policy to tourists. The insurer or insurance company shall also be required to put up a branch office within…Malay.” It failed to include the provision that only companies registered with the Insurance Commission, can offer insurance products in the country.

Section 6 of the ordinance said, “The insurance is voluntary but should be encouraged to all tourists, so that there may be immediate support to an uneventful circumstances that may happen to vacationing tourists that will hinder their full enjoyment and recreation while in Malay.”

The authorized insurance companies will be stationed at all ports leading to Boracay, as per the ordinance.

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