Elijah Felice Rosales (The Philippine Star) – April 13, 2021 – 12:00am

MANILA, PHILIPPINES  —  The decision to suspend travel activities in Boracay due to rising COVID cases nationwide rests on the municipal government of Malay in Aklan, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said yesterday.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she was leaving it up to the leaders of Aklan to decide whether to stop the entry of tourists to the island.

Puyat appealed to local officials of Malay to tighten the entry and exit of tourism workers to prevent them from contracting the virus.

“The decision on whether to impose a lockdown is up to the LGU and their own health experts,” Puyat said. “What we suggested was for them to be strict in the entry and exit of their tourism employees.”

She said the DOT would support whatever decision the local government would arrive at as well as its efforts to boost tourism in Boracay.

The DOT allocated P10 million for the free testing of all workers on the island.

“I think the DOT has given everything it can to the municipality of Malay, but the enforcement of a lockdown is up for them to decide,” Puyat said.

On Sunday the National Task Force Against COVID-19 approved a request for an extension of the travel moratorium in Western Visayas, where Boracay is located.

The moratorium prohibits entry to the region of people coming from the National Capital Region and its surrounding provinces – Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal – as well as from the cities of Cebu and Davao.

The travel ban, which takes effect today until April 19, exempts returning overseas Filipino workers.

The imposition of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces is affecting Boracay, which suffered a large drop in visitor arrivals this month.

From April 1 to April 11, only 746 people visited the famed white sand beach.

Of the figure, most come from nearby localities or within Western Visayas.

“Please note that Boracay and Aklan depend mainly on tourism. The province is desperate to welcome tourists back to the island,” the Malay Tourism Office said.