The Department of Tourism (DOT) is now investigating a Halloween party in Boracay that allegedly flouted social distancing rules.
In a video secured by the DOT and shared today, dozens of people were seen enjoying themselves without wearing masks. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat-Romulo told ABS-CBN News that the party ended at 4am.
“When I saw the video, I was really surprised. I got nervous because there are zero COVID cases in Boracay. Because of complacency, they might end up having a COVID case,” she said in English and Filipino.
She blamed the island’s local government unit (LGU) for the breach in health protocols.
“The LGU and mayor should be serious about this. We want to re-start tourism because so many people have lost their jobs. COVID is nothing to be messed with. If Boracay sees an outbreak, it will shut again,” she warned.
Mayor Frolibar Bautista said that a party did occur on Halloween, which happened in a private home. One organizer was fined PHP5,000 (US$104), while another could no longer be found.
“They brought [the guests] to a private house where they partied on Halloween. We weren’t able to detect it immediately because it was far from the beach, so it wasn’t visible. There were people who joined [the party] and took the video,” he told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo in a separate interview.
Two foreigners even showed up at the party allegedly wearing the uniforms of the Philippine National Police. They have been charged for violating Article 179 of the Revised Penal Code, which prohibits civilians from wearing police and military uniforms.
“There were two foreigners who joined the party, and they used the uniforms of the police. Cases have been filed against those foreigners,” the mayor said.
Countless businesses have closed in Boracay due to the travel restrictions brought by the pandemic. It reopened to local tourists on October 1.
In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Boracay to be closed for six months, citing the need to rehabilitate it. The temporary closure led to the loss of thousands of jobs and the shutdown of scores of businesses.