Duterte to shut ‘cesspit’ Boracay 

A popular Philippine holiday island faces closure by a presidential decree from Rodrigo Duterte. He called for Boracay to be placed off-limits to tourists for six months while it is cleaned up.

Manila’s trade department had unsuccessfully argued that the closure should be done in phases to soften the impact on islanders.

The president was declaring a “state of calamity” and closing it from April 26 for “rehabilitation”, according to the Philippine media.

He also threatened to permanently shut down the island and file charges against officials who failed to prevent its deterioration.

Duterte made the decree after visiting the 6km by 800-metre island, which is over 300km south of Manila. He was apparently outraged by “environmental violations“ that had created a “cesspool” because of inadequate sewerage.

The Lonely Planet guide writes: “With a postcard-perfect, 4km-long white beach and the country’s best island nightlife, it’s not hard to figure out why Boracay is the Philippines’ top tourist draw.”

The guidebook, however, added: “Waste management is a massive problem … and environmental regulations are poorly enforced.”

The authorities are thought to be planning tough environmental laws, which could flatten various beachside hotels.

Some establishments allegedly encroaching on environmentally critical areas, such as wetlands and forests, are in violation of environmental policies, according to environment under-secretary Jonas Leones.

Notices were sent to these businesses for them to demolish their structures, Leones said.

A notice was reportedly sent to D’Mall despite its management’s claim that the shopping centre was not built on reclaimed wetlands.

The under-secretary said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources would be scrutinising the regional government to see if building permits were issued illegally.

Leones added that administrative and criminal charges, including graft and corruption, depending on the strength of the evidence, might be filed against regional governments officers involved in any irregularity.

“It’s not only cleansing Boracay Island, it’s also the opportune time to look at our ranks,” he told the media.

Boracay receives hundreds of thousands of visitors per year, with backpacker and exclusive options available.

Many visitors come from Hong Kong, China and South Korea, with expats regularly converging on the island for short breaks.

An estimated 30,000 Filipinos depend on the island for work and now face uncertainty. That number increases to around 100,000 when family members are included.

Tourists with pre-paid bookings for hotels are likely to be able to claim refunds but there are questions about if air fares will be refunded.

 

Paradise lost? Boracay. Picture credit: Flickr