MANILA-- Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. on Friday said not all parties in Boracay will be banned.

"Sa ngayon, ang tinitignan namin is doon sa beach area lang (Currently, we are looking at restricting (party-activities) in the beach area)," he told reporters in an interview, clarifying parties and events within establishments may still be allowed.

"What we want is to maintain the serenity of the shoreline, which is really the centerpiece attraction of the island," he said.

One of the prominent Boracay parties is the annual "Laboracay" for Labor Day, which attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists every May.

Among others, the inter-agency group, composed of the DOT, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), are eyeing to limit the number of tourists entering the island.

Asked if figures were already set, Bengzon said he defers to the DENR.

"The arrangement is that it is only the DENR that can come up with the figures of the carrying capacity," he said.

"The idea is to, considering the problems that we've experienced in Boracay, ... limit the number of visitors to the island. As to the number, I defer to the DENR."

Strong partnership

On Thursday, the DOT released the latest tourist arrivals data for July 2018, which posted a 5.68 percent growth at 601, 322 compared to the the 568, 035 foreign tourists recorded in the same period last year.

Bengzon said this is a testament to the strong partnership between the government and the private sector.

"Many people were worried that the closure of Boracay will result in a negative growth rate. But on the contrary, we recorded month-on-month growth rates for May for June and even for July," he noted.

"We saw that when the island was closed, the private sector was quick enough to come up with their contingency plan. They shifted to other destinations; they started promoting those destinations very heavily, and we started talking to charter operators to encourage them to fly for alternative destinations," the official said.

In any case, the agency was ready for any possible impact the island's shutdown may bring to the industry, Bengzon pointed out.

"Even before April 26, with the announcement prior to the closure, we were already coming up with a strategy," he said.

"The growth rates that we've experienced in the three months after the closure is again the best proof that we are very resilient," he added.

The government closed Boracay to tourists on April 26 to conduct unhampered rehabilitation projects in the island. The island resort, known for its powdery-white sand beaches, will open on October 26, with a prior dry-run for locals from October 15 to 25.

On track

With two months to go until the tourist destination opens, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) said it is on track with its commitment for the period of Boracay closure.

"TIEZA, as the infrastructure arm of the DOT, is fully committed to complete not only the short-term interventions but, more so, the long-term engineering solutions to the problems that beset Boracay," TIEZA Chief Operating Officer Pocholo Paragas on Thursday said.

"Boracay’s problems did not happen overnight, but we are making sure to fast track the project implementation pursuant to the directive of the President," he added.

During the island's shutdown to tourists, TIEZA started building a temporary discharge pipe along Bolabog Beach to address the brown and blue pipes where illegal connections were made and in turn created the island’s cesspool image.

The temporary discharge pipe is targeted to be completed by August 2018.

At the same time, TIEZA also fast-tracks the implementation of the Boracay Drainage Project (Phase II).

The project, with a total allocation of PHP1.1 billion, is expected to be finished by the third quarter of 2019. (PNA)