Philippines shuts down holiday island Boracay over environmental concerns

The Philippines has announced that the best-known holiday island will be closed over concerns that the beaches have been transformed into a 'cesspool'

The island is one of the Philippines best-known holiday islands
The island is one of the Philippines best-known holiday islands

The Philippines has announced its best-known holiday island Boracay will be closed to tourists for six months over concerns the island’s famous beaches and clear water have been transformed into a “cesspool” due to sustained environmental damages.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the shutdown to start on 26 April, his spokesman Harry Roque said on Twitter, without providing further detail.

The decision ends weeks of speculation on the fate of the popular tourist destination, after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte complained about the state of the island in February.

Boracay, which is around 170 miles south of the capital Manila, is home to as many as 17,000 people, many of whom are directly engaged in the tourism industry. The Island has 500 tourism-related businesses, which had a combined revenue of 56bn pesos ($1.07bn) last year.

The decision raises questions about the livelihoods of thousands employed as part of a bustling tourist trade that serves two million guests on the island each year.

"Calamity funds" would be activated to provide financial relief to those affected by the shutdown, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, but declined to give a figure.

The environment ministry says 195 businesses, along with more than 4,000 residential customers, are not connected to sewer lines.

Environment undersecretary Jonas Leones said last month a closure would involve having airlines and ferries suspend Boracay services, making the beaches off-limits and stationing police there “if necessary”.

“An iron fist is needed to bring it back to its previous condition. It will be a temporary thing,” Leones said.

A business association on the island asked the government to shut down only those violating laws.

“It’s unfair for compliant establishments to be affected by the closure,” Boracay Foundation’s Pia Miraflores said.

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