As more Philippine tourist destinations are being looked into for rehabilitation, the Philippine Department of Tourism is urging local operators to comply with laws related to sustainable development, while assuring destinations will not face complete shut-down, unlike the case of Boracay’s clean-up last year.
“Rehabilitation is not exactly closure,” tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat emphasised while disclosing that Panglao in Bohol and El Nido in Palawan are currently being rehabilitated.
Siargao will follow “soon” and Coron in Palawan is being looked into as well, with the responsible and sustainable management of major tourists spots said to a priority as part of the NTO’s new direction.
Non-beach destinations will not escape scrutiny, with the task force also looking at Baguio, which is beset with the depletion of pine trees it is noted for, and overbuilding issues.
Boracay was abruptly closed for six months last year as part of its ongoing rehabilitation, causing thousands of job losses, economic woes for island residents dependent on tourism for sustenance, and billions of pesos in losses to airlines, hotels, travel agents and tour operators.
This time however, only establishments that have violated environmental and related laws will be shut down until they comply.
In the ongoing rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, for instance, Puyat said at least five hotels would be closed if they fail to comply within three months. Several restaurants and other establishments were already closed.
For beach and sea destinations, the government inter-agency task force including the Department of Tourism basically checks the coliform level of the waters, sewage disposal, compliance with easement and environmental rules, among other areas.
Puyat said that last November, Panglao and El Nido were given six months to follow easement and environmental laws, however their mayors were “a bit hard-headed”.
If these two destinations still don’t comply after the sixth month, she said they will discuss next steps.
As more destinations are identified for rehabilitation, Boracay is now believed to be cleaner and more tourist-friendly and is on the second part of its rehabilitation covering the repair of roads leading to its timberland. There still are establishments that remain closed pending their compliance with environmental and other regulations.