Busted: Tourism Ministry pulls plug on unlicensed Boracay stays

Photo: ABS-CBN News
Photo: ABS-CBN News

Boracay is back (kind of), but at least some would-be visitors are in for a rude awakening after today’s Department of Tourism (DOT) announcement that they’ve busted several unlicensed hotels for accepting bookings.

Today officially kicks off an 11-day dry-run in which Boracay will be opened to a limited number of visitors before its Oct. 26 grand re-opening. The island was closed for six months after President Rodrigo Duterte called the popular tourist destination a “cesspool” due to its sewage problem.

A number of hotels on the island were previously operating under local authority, but the recent government overhaul has seen new standards put in place that not everyone has been able to meet.

In an interview with television show Unang Balita, DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a mix of English and Filipino: “They (unlicensed hotels) weren’t on the list of those who were compliant, but they accepted payments. We wrote to them already to remove their online [bookings]. Because that’s what we agreed to, they can’t promote [their accommodations]. Some could receive online payments.”

She added: “This is very deceptive and I feel bad for the tourists. When they come here, they’ll have nowhere to stay because they’re closed.”

The DOT, she said, has released a list of hotels that have received permits to operate. The list is available on the DOT’s website and social media accounts.

Romulo-Puyat told CNN Philippines that todays’ first visitors have told her that the island now looks like what it was three decades ago.

“I was talking to residents and they were saying this is what Boracay looked like 30 years back,” she said. “People are excited to see the clean, pristine Boracay but of course I’m reminding the public to manage their expectations.”

In a separate interview with Unang Balita, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Benny Antiporda described that people in Boracay were “full of excitement” over today’s dry run.

He also said that the government will closely monitor the island to prevent its environmental issues from recurring.

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