Philippines looks to reduce cruise ship numbers


The Philippine government is considering reducing the number of port calls international cruise lines make to Boracay Island.

The island was closed for around six months for rehabilitation which affected tourism as a whole, as Boracay has been dubbed by many international publications as ‘one of the best island in the world’.

At the beginning of 2019, Philippine authorities begun to prohibit cruise ships from sailing to Boracay Island, but they are dropping anchor in other Filipino destinations.

Arturo P. Boncato Jr, the undersecretary for tourism regulation coordination and resource generation for the Philippines Department of Tourism told Skift that the agency is now the chair of a dedicated committee, that includes local bodies and government agencies to discuss new guidelines that will possibly be imposed on the cruise lines.

The committee had their first meeting on January 9 but Mr Boncato said that there were no final decisions made.

“Discussions revolved on the type of ships [that will be allowed to make port calls], mitigation of pollutive practices, discipline on embarkation/disembarkation, circuit tours to manage loads per site, study on peak seasons, et cetera,” said Mr Boncato.

Artur Pankowski, the assistant vice president and general manager of Royal Caribbean Cruises in Manila said, “I can assure that our company is certainly bringing in our vessels and customers to the Philippines, and we will continue to work closely with local and central government in order to mutually satisfy our business objectives and cooperate in protection of the country’s natural treasures like Boracay.”

But there has been a backlash from other stakeholders, and they are pushing for cruise ships to be prohibited from visiting as they feel like it doesn’t benefit the residents.

Nenette Aguirre-Graf, president of the group, Boracay Foundation, said that survey of its members found that around 84 per cent of its members opposed cruise ship arrivals in Boracay.

She said Philippine authorities did not “properly consult with stakeholders, even with the local officials; there is no direct or enough economic benefit to the unit and stakeholders; and the arrival of the ships cause traffic and transport [crunch]when they are in Boracay.”

“Our school children, residents, and movement of our regular paying tourists who come to enjoy the island with their hard-earned holiday savings, suffer too.”

She also said that tourists also don’t just bring water pollution and sewerage waste, but “they just enjoy the beach, and don’t even book island tours or dine in our restaurants.”

There are also issues with transport that Ms Aguirre-Graf expressed – cruise ships normally dock at the Caticlan port on the mainland of Malay, the gateway to Boracay and then passengers are ferried by floating rafts to Boracay’s jetty port. From there, tricycles rush for new arrivals, causing massive traffic jams and fewer transport vehicles for the rest of the island’s residents, workers and guests.