Virgin Island closed to food vendors, tourism activities

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EFFECTIVE today, August 3, 2022, Virgin Island (Balut Island) in Panglao, Bohol will no longer accept food vendors and other tourism activities.

The Municipal Tourism Council of Panglao announced this decision in a statement issued by its chairman, Leucodio Trotin, on August 2, 2022.

It said the decision to close the island to food vendors and other tourism activities was reached after a review of the investigation conducted by Mayor Edgardo "Boy" Arcay on the alleged overpricing of seafood by some vendors.

The overpricing issue created a buzz online after a woman posted on her Facebook account on August 1, 2022 that her friend's group of 13 paid a total of P26,100 for the seafood and drinks that they ordered.

The food and drinks ordered by the group included Abalone worth P2,500, tinolang isda (P1,800), kinilaw'ng isda (P3,000), sinugba'ng isda (P2,500), scallops (P3,000), oyster (P3,000), squid (P2,500), lato (P800), baby squid (P1,500), sea urchin (P2,300), banana (P900), softdrinks (P1,300), and beer (P1,000).

"This council recommends to the mayor during their emergency meeting (August 2) for the immediate closure of Virgin Island for food vendors and for other tourism activities effective tomorrow, August 3, 2022," said the Municipal Tourism Council in a statement Tuesday, August 2.

Island hopping operations, however, will continue provided that "such activity shall be limited only for sightseeing," it added.

To help the displaced vendors, the council has recommended the holding of "food street or night market" at Panglao Plaza where the vendors can sell their products.

"To be fair and just for the affected vendors as well, they shall be able to continuously sell out whatever perishable stock on hand," it said.

The night market will also be conducted to coincide with the Hudyaka Festival celebration, it added.

The council assured that it is open to consultation meeting with Arcay, Municipal Council of Panglao, Provincial Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Health “to explain to the vendors the very reason of the immediate closure with regards to violated rules and regulations in each sector.”

It also recommended the creation of an accredited association of vendors to involve them in the planning process, creating policies and procedures, including the regulation of pricing and “make them understand that this solution is to help them.”

Also on Tuesday, August 2, Mayor Arcay ordered the suspension of selling of food on Virgin Island.

The DOT and DENR, meanwhile, announced that they have been coordinating with the Bohol Provincial Government and Panglao Municipal Government for immediate investigation on the matter.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco said the overpricing by vendors “is a matter that the Department of Tourism takes seriously especially as it concerns the welfare of tourists whose continued support for our destinations is critical to the recovery of the tourism industry.”

Garcia-Frasco appealed to the public to help boost tourism by helping each other.

“Tourism is a shared responsibility, and it is in helping each other along this period of recovery that we can fully enjoy the benefits that tourism brings,” she said. (LMY)

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