The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) has decided to cancel all “LoveBoracay” events this year due to the threat of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

A replacement of the infamous “Laboracay,” LoveBoracay is a week-long series of events celebrating the rehabilitation of the world-famous resort island. It is slated for April 26-May 2.

The decision to cancel Boracay’s most important event was reached during the BIATF meeting held on March 12, said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny D. Antiporda.

“Since the COVID-19 situation has not improved, and with the health of attendees, organizers and stakeholders, a primary consideration, the BIATF has decided to cancel this event,” Antiporda announced.

Antiporda said the BIATF, chaired by DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, has taken into consideration the recent developments on COVID-19, particularly the declaration of President Rodrigo RoaDuterte of a state of public health emergency on March 9.

As of Thursday night, the Philippines has a total of 52 confirmed cases, with five fatalities, of COVID-19, which the World Health Organization has already declared a pandemic as the virus has so far infected more than 120,000 people and killed over 4,500 in 114 countries.

First held in 2018, LoveBoracay features activities such as street party, variety show, Ati-Atihan parade, and an Arts and Music night.

“Should the island be contaminated, tourists will avoid the island, businesses will incur losses and workers may be laid off,” Antiporda said, as he warned of possible consequences should LoveBoracay push through.

He said that large gatherings, such as LoveBoracay, might increase the risk of the virus entering the prime destination as it will bring in a huge number of people from all over the country. Boracay remains COVID-19-free to date, he noted.

Meanwhile, Antiporda described the improvements on the island as “overwhelming” two years after it was closed to tourists for six months to pave the way for much-needed rehabilitation.

He said the DENR, together with the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and all other agencies involved in the rehabilitation, was successful in turning Boracay from “cesspool” to a more sustainable ecotourism destination.

“The President’s order to BIATF, led by the DENR, DILG and DOT, was to restore the water quality of the island, which he described as a cesspool,” Antiporda pointed out. “The task force has already done this. It’s ‘mission accomplished’ for the task force.”

He said the remaining works, such as compliance to the 25+5 easement rule, road infrastructure, and sewage system are “already 80 percent finished.” ###