As beautiful as the world-renowned island is, Boracay isn’t always spared from activities and controversies that demean the reputation it’s built over the decades. From the already notorious overcrowding, littering, and sewage issues, to the 2019 viral beach pooping mayhem and, in December 2020, tourists with fake COVID-19 test results — it’s safe to say, yet again, that Boracay has seen better days.
When necessary penalties have been imposed on a number of these irresponsible vacationers and business owners, you’d think the island would never see the same violations again. Obviously, this is far from the truth. Just a few weeks after that first incident of faking COVID-19 test results, for example, other groups of tourists attempted the same stunt, got away with it (meaning, they successfully entered the island), and were rightfully punished.
Fake COVID-19 test results in Boracay
But first, a recap.
The first case of this faking incident happened on 5 Dec 2020. Six tourists from Luzon came to the island with their negative COVID-19 test results, one of the main travel requirements for Boracay, as well most other Philippine destinations, in the pandemic. Of the group, five were caught with photocopied documents showing they were negative of the coronavirus. Only one had a legitimate one.
Once Aklan authorities found out through their tests’ serial numbers that most of them falsified their documents, the said group apparently hid in their hotel room before surrendering later on. They were sent to a Kalibo quarantine facility for a 14-day quarantine and real swab testing. According to Malay Police Chief Lt. Col. Jonathan Pablito, charges were also filed against the offenders for violating Republic Act No. 1332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
On 3 Jan 2021, local officials arrested eight more tourists who entered the island with inauthentic COVID-19 test results. Coming from Batangas, they arrived via a roll-on, roll-off vessel in the Caticlan port. These tourists claimed that they took the test and got their medical certificates at the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center in Manila. However, the facility denied these activities.
Then, less than three weeks later, on 21 Jan 2021, six tourists were once more caught and arrested for similar violations. Five arrived on the island as a group after being given provisional quick reaction (QR) codes as their RT-PCR tests were being verified. They also checked in at a different hotel from what they declared, where they were found by the Aklan authorities. After their eventual swab tests, three in the group ended up testing positive for COVID-19.
According to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, local officials in Aklan and Boracay have so far apprehended at least 26 Boracay tourists who faked their COVID-19 test results. The rest have either been intercepted at the airport and shipping port in Caticlan, or offloaded from their flights to Boracay from Manila. Elsewhere, Filipinos have also been arrested for making and profiting off of fake COVID-19 tests.
Fines, persona non grata, and other sanctions
With succeeding cases of mostly Filipino tourists presenting fake COVID-19 test results for Boracay, it leads one to think — are there lapses in Aklan’s visitor assessment procedures, or are some Filipinos really that thick to commit such irresponsible and selfish transgressions? Either way, the penalties and consequences violators will be facing are, simply put, no laughing matter.
Using the above incidents as examples, Boracay tourists caught falsifying their COVID-19 test results while already on the island will be first sent to the Aklan Training Center. This serves as the provincial quarantine facility located in Kalibo. Here, they would stay for 14 days to quarantine and undergo an RT-PCR test. In other words, the time and money that they would’ve put into their supposed holidays would all be for nothing. Only that’s not even the icing on the cake.
On top of Republic Act No. 1332, those found faking COVID-19 test results would also face penalties for violating Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, as well as falsification of documents. Penalties would include “fines and proper criminal charges from the local government units (LGU), which may include the penalty of imprisonment,” according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).
On 4 Feb 2021, the local government of Malay in Aklan, where Boracay is located, announced that its constituents have agreed in passing a resolution to prohibit any tourist from entering the locale once found committing the violation. Through this resolution, they would be declared as persona non grata, Malay’s Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista said on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
Meanwhile, DOT also urged Malay’s authorities to tighten their registration processes so that those who plan on submitting fake COVID-19 test results in the future, especially tourists who turn up positive of the virus, would be disallowed from travelling to Boracay, and possibly expose the locals and other tourists to COVID-19. Malay is also planning to work more closely with Boracay hotels to make sure that they have the means to verify COVID-19 test results of their guests before confirming their bookings.
As of publication, Boracay has recorded zero cases of COVID-19 local transmission. Meanwhile, those who have tested positive for the virus, including the staff of Shangri-La Boracay late in January 2021, are or have been given proper treatment by local authorities. With all this said, upcoming tourists to the island are strictly warned — whatever your excuses are, do not attempt to fake your COVID-19 test results, or face grave results like those tourists in Boracay.