NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
The vendors who figured in a nationally-circulated news due to alleged overpricing of food, are now out from the famous and scenic Virgin Island in Panglao town.
Gov. Aris Aumentado issued an order to immediately stop the selling of foods and beverages at the sand bar of the island which is practically causing an eye sore – destroying the beauty and serenity of the islet.
The action of the governor came after a post on social media showing a food bill of P26,000 went viral and reached national media projecting Bohol as an “expensive” destination.
Panglao Mayor Boy Arcay who visited the island last Tuesday likewise recommended the “closure” of the island to vendors.
Some 16 vendors belonging to the Virgin Island Vendors Association (VIVA) have been serving foods and beverages since the time of former Mayor Nila Montero. Their business at the sandbar of the island was approved by the Protected Area Management Board (PAM-B) on the basis of the R.A> 11038 on the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System (E-NIPAS).
The scenic sandbar is 450 meters during low tide and is 3 kilometers from the tourist haven of Alona Beach.
The decision of the governor to close down the selling at the area was part of the discussion during the three-day strategic planning of the Provincial Government attended by heads of offices and the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) led by Vice Gov. Victor Balite. The planning session ended yesterday at South Palm Resort.
He said that the outcome of the strategic planning will be the basis for policy-making and probably for the SP to craft an Ordinance regulating tour operations.
He pointed out not only the overpricing of foodstuff offered on the said island but all other services, including the fat commissions of the van drivers ferrying tourists and the resorts and/or restaurants’ pricing.
The governor said that the legislative measure and its implementation will be done fairly, stressing to protect both the guests and the tourism-related business.
The policy will protect the tourism industry, including the environment, he stressed.
Provincial Board Member Jamie Villamor said that the SP on Tuesday approved a resolution creating a task force for fact-finding on the alleged incident on overwhelmingly high prices of food sold on Virgin Island
Villamor, who authored the resolution and is chairperson of the Environmental Committee, said Bohol is confronted with a tourism-centered issue involving the alleged complaint.
“We are not only confronted with tourism issues but we are also confronted with socio-economic issues which I fear would result to what is called the tragedy of the commons wherein the people will exploit the area based on their own interest and deplete the resources, ” Villamor said during her privilege speech.
Provincial Board Member Tita Baja, chairperson of the SP committee on tourism found out that the tourists are paying P60 to P100 to DENR which also needs to be investigated.
The Panglao Municipal Tourism Council (MPTC) has called on the municipal government to ban food vendors on Virgin Island in the aftermath of a viral social media post alleging the sale of exorbitant seafood at the popular destination.
Leucudio Trotin, president of the MPTC, recommended the “immediate” closure of the island to “vendors and other tourism activities” effective on Wednesday.
The recommendation was agreed upon by members of the council during an emergency meeting conducted after netizen Vilma Uy alleged that her friend and 13 others were charged over P26,000 for food on the island.
The 16 vendors will be relocated shortly to a place that will be determined by the municipal government, according to Leigh Sinica, municipal tourism officer.
He said the vendors will undergo a Filipino Brand of Service training workshop on Aug. 9-10 to be conducted by the Department of Tourism (DOT). This training will include proper food handling.
VIRAL FB POST
The action taken came as an offshoot of the posting on social media by a Leyte-based group who took their lunch at the makeshifts of the vendors selling food to guests right in the middle of the sandbar
In an FB post of netizen Wilma Uy, the food bill showed a total of P26,100 for the seafood and drinks the group ordered The food included: Abalone for P2,500, tinolang isda for P1,800, kinilaw na isda for P3,000, sinugba’ng isda for P2,500, scallops for P3,000, oyster (P3,000), squid (P2,500), lato (P800), baby squid (P1,500), sea urchin (P2,300), banana (P900), soft drinks (P1,300), and beer (P1,000).
For her part, the tourist who paid the bill said in her FB account: FYI : RE: Post in virgin island bohol… It is not my intention to destroy any businesses on the island but purely awareness, especially for the local tourists who are planning to relax from the crowded city and toxic jobs whose budget is very limited. If ever I offended everyone, my apology to you all. (with reports from Rey Tutas, Ric Obedencio, Allen Doydora)