As I write this, Boracay’s white beach is dotted with humans. If it weren’t for the masks, you’d think this was pre-pandemic Boracay. It’s great for the Aklan tourism sector, which suffered extensively not just in the two-year pandemic, but also during the 2018 closure.
Now that the most famous island getaway in the Philippines is back on its feet, the local government has implemented a new mandate: mask up or pay a ₱2,500 fine (about US$48).
i) First Offense: Reprimand.
ii) Second Offense: A fine of one thousand pesos (₱1,000.00) or community service of 5 hours.
iii) Third and Succeeding Offenses: A fine of two thousand pesos (₱2,000.00) or community service of 8 hours.
For commercial establishments, such as, but not limited to hotels, restaurants, pharmacies, motels, parlors, terminals and other similar establishments which allow people to enter their premises not wearing face masks shall be fined five thousand pesos (₱5,000.00) for each violation.
However, when I spoke to several Boracay locals and business owners, they all said that the fine is ₱2,500. A Philippine Star report also stated that the Municipal Ordinance on Mandatory Wearing of Face Mask and Strict physical discipline has a ₱2,500 fine.
I see the discrepancy in the published penalties, but to verify, I called up several hotels in Boracay to ask about the mask mandate. They all told me the same thing: It’s ₱2,500 for the first offense.
It works just like your typical day driving along EDSA in Manila. Sometimes you get away with a warning, as what happened with a friend of mine. Sometimes you get issued a ticket and get fined on the spot, as what happened with some people I met, both locals and tourists.
According to one island-based chef I met, it really depends on how you follow or abuse this mandate. If, for example, you innocently forgot to put it on while taking a leisurely stroll, you may get off with a warning. But if a marshall catches you partying maskless in a crowded bar, you will get fined immediately.
It’s not just cops who will ticket you. Keep an eye out for Boracay marshalls, dressed in a green shirt and wearing their IDs on a lanyard.
A few tips:
1. It’s okay to remove the mask when eating or swimming, duh!
2. It’s okay to keep it off when you’re in a wide area with hardly any people.
3. When you take it off before swimming, keep it secure in your bag. Don’t just leave it exposed on your beach mat. It could end up in the ocean or flying into someone else’s face!
4. Please dispose of your masks properly. The pandemic has seen a surge of plastic, medical, and hazardous waste. How would you feel when you emerge from a swim, gasp for air, and nearly choke on a discarded face mask? I speak for both animals and humans.
Mask up in Boracay, folks!
First published: May 18, 2022
Updated: July 3, 2022