The Economic Development Committee (EDC) under the leadership of its Acting Chairperson Atty. Jobert Peñaflorida, Regional Governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) – Western Visayas, and concurrent Co-Chairperson of the Regional Development Council (RDC) VI facilitated the conduct of the Boracay Stakeholders Forum at the Henann Park Resort in Boracay Island, Aklan on November 11, 2022.

Present during the forum were Governor Jose Enrique Miraflores of Aklan, DENR VI Regional Executive Director (RED) Livino B. Duran, DOT VI Regional Director (RD) Cristine Mansinares, and Malay MPDC Alma Belejerdo representing Mayor Frolibar S. Bautista of Malay, Aklan. Officials from the three barangays in Boracay Island also attended the forum, together with stakeholders from the Boracay Foundation, Inc. headed by its Chairman Mr. Dindo Salazar and President Mr. Edwin Raymundo;  Boracay MICE Alliance with its Chairperson Ms. Cleofe Albiso and President Elmar Lina; PCCI Boracay with its President Mr. Wesley Van der Voort and PCCI Region VI, with all its Chamber Presidents and officers from Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Metro Bacolod.

Atty. Peñaflorida, who presided over the forum, expressed that the activity was also a consultative interaction between the government and business sector.  He pointed out that Boracay remains to be the prized jewel and gateway of tourism in the Region, hence its sustainability is everyone’s challenge and responsibility.

DOT, DENR, PLGU Aklan and MLGU Malay presented their development directions for Boracay Island for the next three years. RD Mansinares shared that the economic recovery prospects for Boracay is strong citing the 821.35 percent increase in tourist arrivals from January to November 6, 2022 compared to the tourist arrivals of the same period in 2021.   Tourist arrivals of 1,473,158 have already been recorded this year. She added that the tourism priorities of DOT for the Region are to support regional ecotourism sites, re-establish flights similar to pre-Covid pandemic period, promote MICE, cultural, and film tourism, assist community-based rural tourism organizations and tourism MSMEs, and greening the tourism value chain.

As per presentation of RED Duran, DENR will continue to protect the forestlands and wetlands of Boracay, prevent new encroachments, recover and rehabilitate the island’s ecosystems, and support/advocate innovations and programs on climate action and disaster resilience. Their direction will continue to align with rehabilitation and recovery framework indicated in the Boracay Action Plan.

LGU Malay laid out their plans to decongest Boracay island with complementary development of mainland Malay as contained in their New Tourism Masterplan.

Governor Miraflores, on the other hand, declared that the Province of Aklan is moving towards the creation of a Boracay Inter-agency cooperation body that will adopt the same multi-sectoral approach strategy of the defunct Boracay Inter Agency Task force (BIATF).  He expects the body to be functional by the end of the year.

During the open forum, the stakeholders expressed their concerns over the results of the carrying capacity study of the Island.  One of the suggestions is for the study to be reevaluated, specifically, the parameters for the tourist carrying capacity. They felt that more tourists should be allowed in the Island than what is being recommended in the study.  RED Duran assured the body that the results of the 2022 carrying capacity study is under review pending the concerns raised during its initial presentation to the public. This will be presented again to the public once finalized. Governor Miraflores will conduct a stakeholders’ consultation relative to the final report of the 2022 carrying capacity study.

The forum showcased the successful dialogue between the government and private sector.  The stakeholders from the business sector gave the assurance that they will cooperate with the government agencies and LGUs towards the  sustainable management and environmental protection of Boracay. /FCPalabrica, NEDA VI