NO DIPPING Taking a dip in the sea off the beach of Boracay Island and scenes like in this photo taken in 2019 remain prohibited even under relaxed quarantine. —INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines — As many areas shift to loosened quarantine measures, several residents of Boracay have questioned the continued ban on swimming along the island’s famous white beach.
They called on the local government of Malay town in Aklan province to allow swimming even with regulations. Swimming is allowed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF)on Emerging Infectious Diseases in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) like Aklan, they pointed out.
“The [World Health Organization] says that staying healthy and building up our immune system through exercise and swimming are the best prevention for COVID-19. The majority [of Boracay residents] do not have private pools, the resorts are obviously closed,” Freida Dario-Santiago, one of the residents and a community newspaper editor, said on Facebook.
“For the poor families living on the island, the beach is the only outdoor area to get much-needed sun and exercise, outside of their cramped living spaces,” she said.
Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista of Malay, which has jurisdiction over Boracay, earlier said swimming remained prohibited to avoid the congestion of people on the beach and to maintain physical distancing.
But islanders believe the ban should be lifted.
“The kids have been cooped up for two months and we have no parks for them to play and schools are obviously closed … Tell us why you can’t allow us this freedom when there are zero (COVID-19) cases, no tourists, and when [we can regulate] beach use with social distancing,” Santiago said.
She pointed out that social distancing could still be maintained with the island’s 4.5-kilometer stretch of white beach.
Other residents said walking and swimming on the beach were essential for both physical and mental health amid severe economic difficulties and months of restrictions.
Elsewhere in Western Visayas, residents are adjusting to relaxed quarantine measures.
A limited number of jeepneys and buses will ply their routes again on Monday in Iloilo province and Iloilo City, but the number of passengers will be reduced. Only those wearing masks will be allowed to ride the vehicles.
More establishments have been allowed to open, including department stores, barbershops and hair salons.
But according to Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas, manicure and pedicure services will still not be allowed.
The ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages will remain in Iloilo and Antique provinces. It was, however, lifted in Iloilo City and the provinces of Aklan and Capiz, though drinking in public areas is prohibited.
In Iloilo City, those buying alcoholic beverages should present identification cards, with purchases limited to only two liters per person per day.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.