DOMESTIC TOURISTS FIRST. Boracay Island will soon be open to domestic tourists coming from Western Visayas only. Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores said on Wednesday (June 10, 2020) that they are preparing for the island’s soft opening. (PNA file photo)

ILOILO CITY – The province of Aklan is preparing for the opening of Boracay Island in the town of Malay to welcome domestic tourists from Western Visayas only.

“For the rest of June, we will be preparing for the eventual opening. By July we will be ready for domestic tourism only in Western Visayas,” Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores said in a press conference on the sidelines of the meeting of the region’s local chief executives in this city on Wednesday.

Miraflores said they are “preparing already for the soft opening”. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat will be coming to the island to assess its preparations on Thursday, he added.

The governor added that they are also in the process of accrediting establishments that are compliant with the guidelines of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

So far DOT has accredited hotels that are equivalent to 360 rooms.

“In the next two weeks, we will start inspecting all the hotels that have indicated their intent to open. But we would like to make sure that in the event that we open our hotels, they really are compliant with all the safety requirements,” he said.

Miraflores appreciated the proposal of Negros Occidental economic adviser Alfredo Benitez for the region to come up with a single application for a unified database that would capture movements of people in Western Visayas.

“The presentation is really appropriate for our plans, especially the contact tracing that we would want to do. While we are doing it on our own, but with the proposal of Western Visayas Stay Safe Application, that would really boost the movement of people and also help us open up our tourism industry,” the governor said.

The “Stay Safe” application is free, Benitez said. Each person will have a QR code that is either stored in the smart cellular phone or printed in their identification cards.

Upon arrival in a place, the QR Code will be scanned and will automatically register in the database the identity of the individual, time of arrival, and places that were visited.

“That is something that we can promote and we can use as an added tool for us to do contact tracing. In case a positive case is identified, we have the means and the technology to contact trace as soon as possible,” Benitez said.

Miraflores said for now, they “do not want to open it to the rest of the country first but we are willing to open it within Western Visayas”.

Miraflores and Benitez were among those who attended upon the invitation of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas for a meeting of political leaders of Western Visayas to discuss areas that they can work together to “push the development and recovery of Region 6 right away” amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“We see that we do not have local transmission for the past several weeks. While there are OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and LSIs (locally stranded individuals) who are positive, I think we will have to live with that. As long as all the protocols are in place, we should not worry so much about that,” the mayor said.

The meeting was also attended by Iloilo Governors Arthur Defensor Jr. of Iloilo Province, Rhodora Cadiao of Antique, Samuel Gumarin of Guimaras, Esteban Contreras of Capiz, Eugenio Jose Lacson of Negros Occidental, and former Bacolod City Rep. John Orola representing Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia. (PNA)