Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III on Wednesday, March 7, expressed his support to the government’s plan to temporarily close Boracay Island to tourists for rehabilitation.
“It is only logical to close Boracay for renovations, so to speak. We must carefully assess the damage to the local environment and take the necessary steps for cleanup. The process is more easily done and more effective if there are no tourists around,” he said in a statement.
The Senate leader added that the closure would be “good in the long run for all stakeholders.”
Both the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Tourism (DoT) were considering for a 60-day total closure of Boracay from June 1 to July 31.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has announced that he would declare a state of calamity to the tourist destination.
Sought for comment, Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, saw no negative effect on the president’s plan.
“Maybe he wants it so that the national government can do what it has to do in Boracay,” he told reporters after the hearing of the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Asked about her business interests in Boracay, Ms. Villar sees no conflict of interest regarding the Senate investigation into Boracay’s woes, saying that establishments linked to the Villar-led Vista Land and Lifescapes, Inc. (VLL) were compliant with environment laws.
“We have a very small investment in Boracay but we are in 139 towns and cities in the Philippines. If they close in one town, it doesn’t have an effect to the company,” she said.
“And if they want to close it, they can close it. It won’t matter to Vista Land,” she added.
Property developer VLL has taken over the 50-room Boracay Sands Hotel in 2015 and developed Costa Vista Boracay condominium in 2016. — Camille A. Aguinaldo