Boracay: Philippines’ popular tourist island closes for six months to let ‘cesspool’ beaches recover

Closure could lead to 36,000 job losses and £767m in lost revenue, say stakeholders

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 25 April 2018 12:08
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Boracay, one of the most popular islands for tourists in the Philippines, is to close for six months on 26 April.

The decision was announced by President Rodrigo Duterte on 4 April, after he dubbed the island a “cesspool” during a visit the previous month.

The island is lauded for its white sand beaches, but problems of sewage being dumped into the sea by local hotels and restaurants, and buildings constructed too close to the shoreline, mean it is under threat.

The environment ministry has claimed some 195 businesses and 4,000 residential properties on Boracay are not connected to the sewer system.

Environment undersecretary Jonas Leones told The Guardian: “An iron fist is needed to bring it back to its previous condition. It will be a temporary thing.”

The measures will include suspending airline services and ferries, making beaches off limits and even stationing police officers “if necessary”.

The move to close the island to tourists has been met with mixed reactions.

“We support the government in adopting responsible and sustainable tourism practices,” said the Philippine Travel Agencies Association, “but not in shutting down the whole island.”

Jose Clemente III, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, said they had expected partial, rather than full, closure.

“We’re a bit depressed right now in the industry,” he told ABS-CBN.

“We were expecting some sort of compromise between a partial or total closure or at least given more time to adjust to a closure, but I guess the president made up his mind and we’re taken aback by it.”

He added: “If given the opportunity, yes, we would like to present our case. The private sector did not have a face-to-face dialogue with the president. We were doing it through the various agencies.

“Unfortunately, I guess this is the result of the recommendations of those agencies.”

The closure is estimated to potentially lead to 36,000 job losses and PHP56bn (£767m) loss of tourist-related revenue.

However, senior deputy executive secretary Menardo Guevarra said that calamity funds would be used to keep affected workers afloat during the closure period.

In 2017 alone, 3.72 million people flew to the island, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

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