Boracay, one of the most popular tourist spots in the Philippines, has recorded a staggering increase in suicide rates after the pandemic halted tourism operations on the island.

Although the island was able to operate for a while before the March surge of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region cut off tourist visits once again, the losses incurred in the past year – when the pandemic began – are still felt. 

The lack of tourists in Boracay not only dented the area’s economy but also negatively affected the native’s psychological well-being, which prompts a strengthening of mental health awareness strategies on the island.

Deputy Chief Implementer for Visayas of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), Retired Gen. Melquiades Feliciano said Boracay recorded more deaths from suicide than COVID-19 last year.

In 2020, the island incurred 40 deaths from suicide compared to only one from COVID-19. 

“Last year, Boracay had more suicide deaths than COVID deaths. There were actually 40 suicide deaths compared to one COVID death in Boracay,” Feliciano revealed during an online press briefing held on Monday. 

According to Feliciano, the lack of income and limited food sources are pushing people to the brink. He said people are hungry and ‘only have coconuts to eat.’

Feliciano assured that they’re going to do the best they can to address the situation and promised to put tourism destinations on top of the vaccine distribution list – the only strategy that can bring economic opportunities to people in Boracay.

“I agree that tourist destinations will be given priority also [in] the vaccination program of the national government,” he said.

Malay – the municipality Boracay is part of – only recorded one new case of COVID-19 in their area and a total of 23 active cases, a May 22 report said. 

Due to the closing down of tourism operations since last year, Boracay has suffered from an 80 percent drop in tourist arrivals and has missed out on 49 billion worth of opportunities.

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