DOT: 3,000 out of 15,000 rooms in Boracay to open by October

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 20) — Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat does not believe Boracay Island can be fully opened by next month.

"I think it should be a soft opening. You cannot rehabilitate an island in six months," Romulo-Puyat told CNN Philippines' The Source. "Everything's on track, but it needs time."

She also said only about 3,000 rooms will be ready by October 26 — a mere fifth of the rooms available before the closure. This encompassed quarters from various establishments across the three stations of Boracay.

"[The] total inventory of rooms is 15,000 before closing. We target to open 3,000 DOT-accredited rooms once [they] fully comply with inter-agency requirements from DILG and DENR," she added.

The number is based on information gathered from the government's "One Stop Shop" on the island, where the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and DOT are stationed. Businesses have to get clearance from all three offices before they are allowed to operate. The DILG provides business permits, while the DENR approves environmental compliance certificates, sewage treatment plans, and easement.

However, Romulo-Puyat still deferred to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu regarding the announcement of Boracay's re-opening.

After President Rodrigo Duterte called the beach destination "a cesspool," Boracay was shut down on April 26 for a six-month clean-up and rehabilitation. Locals and businessmen contested its closure, saying the government could not adequately support their livelihood with no tourists.

RELATED: In Boracay, life goes on despite the island's closure

The secretary's remarks come ahead of a Wednesday meeting of the Boracay Inter-agency Task Force, where Cabinet secretaries will discuss the island's carrying capacity.

Romulo-Puyat also believes the number of visitors to Boracay from here on out should be controlled.

"You can't have too many people," she said. "In other countries, they really put a limit to the number of tourists entering the island."

The closure of Boracay factored into lower economic growth than expected for the year.

However, the tourism chief reported that tourist arrivals have actually gone up this year compared to last year. She credited the rise to the private sector, saying flights were successfully diverted to other tourist destinations.

"Actually for this June, tourism arrivals increased by 11.35 percent compared to June of last year," said Romulo-Puyat. "Right away when [the private sector] knew Boracay was closed, they diverted their flights to other tourist destinations like Cebu, Bohol, Siargao, and Palawan."

The clean-up of Boracay involves the clearing of polluted waters in Bulabog Beach, a new sewage system, and the demolition of illegal establishments and structures. It is expected to open on October 26.