Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Resort island in the Philippines was closed to tourists for six months

Philippines approves six-month closure of Boracay from April Brit tourist hotspot in Philippines Boracay Island CLOSED for six months after becoming a 'cesspool' plagued by sewage
Deanna Wagner | 06 April, 2018, 06:58

Mr Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay for six months from 26 April in a bid to rescue from ruin a once idyllic island that drew two million tourists and generated over $1bn in revenue a year ago.

Only about 47 percent of the hundreds of establishments are connected to the island's main sewerage treatment plant, with numerous rest possibly maintaining crude septic tanks and others discharging their waste directly into the sea, Alegre said.

Airlines and businesses were baffled by the decision to halt tourism to Boracay, one of the chain of islands known as the Visayas, which was visited by two million tourists past year and brought in revenue of more than $1 billion.

The local tourism industry has urged a delay to the planned closure and a gradual introduction, something the authorities say can not work.

Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and AirAsia Philippines plan to scale down services to two airports in Caticlan and Kalibo - towns on nearby Panay island that service Boracay - from April 26 to Oct 25.

"We are a bit depressed right now in the industry", he said.

The impact on hotels and resorts has yet to be fully assessed.

Philippine Airlines said it supported the government's decision.

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It will expand flights to other tourist and provincial destinations in the Philippines, it said in a statement. Boracay hosts 1,900 businesses, including global hotel chains like Shangri-La and Movenpick.

Airlines offer around 1.2 million seats from Boracay's Caticlan airport annually, almost three-quarters from the capital Manila, data from Aviation Consultants show. "He will not let any resort owner benefit from any sort of a calamity fund", Roque said.

Some large operators welcomed the closure, saying it would create a more sustainable tourism environment, and make it easier to complete ongoing construction work.

Roque said priority would also be given to the construction of new sewage lines, since the existing ones now being operated by Boracay Island Water Company, Inc. were proven to be insufficient and had caused backflows.

The island can only sustain 30,000 people but teems with 70,000 at any time, including 50,000 residents and daily arrivals of about 20,000 tourists, Alegre said.

Discovery World, which operates an 88-room resort on Boracay, told Reuters the closure will have an impact on the resort's large revenue.

The Boracay Foundation Inc., a business association on the island, had asked the government to shut down only those violating environmental laws. The decision of the head of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte received after the visit paid to the island in February of this year.