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Boracay closure seen to have minimal GDP impact

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THE COST of temporarily shutting down Boracay to make way for its rehabilitation will have a “very insignificant effect” on the entire economy, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Tuesday.

“Even if the ban extends up to six months… at the macro level, it has a very insignificant effect. We see something like 0.1% of GDP (gross domestic product),” NEDA Director for National Policy and Planning Reynaldo R. Cancio said in a press briefing.

NEDA Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon said in the briefing that the socioeconomic planner has submitted its recommendation on the matter to the Office of the President.

“There will be a contingency plan for them, plan to provide… social protection. The thing is we are recommending that it be started during the lean season and we are also recommending a number of workers can be involved in the cleanup drive,” she said, adding that some affected businesses may relocate to alternative tourism spots.

“So it really requires a high level of cooperation and, therefore, there has to be proper planning for local government units.”

The Department of Tourism has said that 1 million foreigners and 6.6 million locals visited Boracay last year, while the Tourism Congress of the Philippines has estimated that about 19,000 workers may be displaced once the closure order is implemented, noting further that the island generated P56 billion in tourism sales in 2017’s first nine months.

The Department of Trade and Industry, on the other hand, has recommended a phased closure in order to ease the impact on businesses and livelihood.

The entire tourism industry has been growing its contribution to GDP in 2016, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, from 8.2% in 2015, 7.5% in 2014, 7.2% in 2013, 7.0% in 2012 and 6.8% in 2011.

SEEKING SOLUTIONS
Also on Tuesday, Senator Cynthia A. Villar, who heads the chamber’s Environment and Natural Resources committee, said separately that the Senate will focus on long-term solutions for managing Boracay Island.

“Our role will be on legislation now. We will no longer meddle [in discussions] whether to open or to close Boracay. But we will try to solve the problem long term by passing legislation how to manage Boracay well,” she told reporters before a legislative hearing on the Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

She said it was up to the Executive branch to decide on Boracay’s fate following the recommendation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a closure of the island for up to a year for rehabilitation. Malacañang has yet to issue its order on the tourist destination.

The Senate earlier opened its inquiry into the environmental problems hounding Boracay Island. Ms. Villar said her committee’s hearing on Boracay Island will shift focus to a bill that will seek the establishment of a Boracay Administration consisting of representatives from the national and the local governments. “We will look at the hearing if our inputs would make a very reasonable legislation… We will discuss the bill to be filed so we can provide solutions to the problem” she said.

Sought for comment on NEDA’s projection of minimal gross domestic product impact of Boracay’s closure, Ms. Villar said there is disruption to the local economy to consider.

“It would only affect Panay region, the provinces around Boracay. They have sent us requests not to close Boracay because it will affect their economy,” she said.

Several senators have expressed concern about the impact of moves to close down Boracay while it is being rehabilitated. Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III, for his part, has proposed for a two-month closure to determine what the government needs to do for the island’s rehabilitation.

For her part, Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, chairman of the Senate Committee on Tourism, filed a resolution last Mar. 19 calling for an inventory of the country’s island tourism sites to check local governments’ capabilities to oversee tourism activities. — Camille A. Aguinaldo and Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan