Philippines Will Close ‘Cesspool’ Boracay Island for 6-Month Cleanup

Apr 5, 2018

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One of the world’s top beach destinations, Boracay Island in the Philippines, will be shutdown for six months for a major overhaul, the Philippine government said Wednesday, after garbage, pollution and other environmental concerns have mounted with the island’s increasing popularity.

Boracay, which was named the No. 2 best beach in Asia by TripAdvisor, has seen rapid growth with tourists for its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Last year, about 1.7 million tourists visited the island over just a 10-month period, the government-run Philippines Information Agency says. Tourism seems to have grown faster than Boracay’s infrastructure developed, and due to the high traffic of visitors, the island has problems like massive heaps of garbage and unregulated sewage pipes that drain onto beaches and into the sea.

BORACAY, PHILIPPINES: TO GO WITH STORY "PHILIPPINES-TOURISM-ENVIRONMENT-BORACAY" A dump truck deposits garbage on a hillside in the central Philippine resort island of Boracay, 10 July 2005. The worsening garbage problem on the island could threaten Boracay's image as a pristine paradise for foreign and local tourists. But accumulating garbage is just one of the problems that the island must contend with as more and more people flock to its beaches. AFP PHOTO/JOEL NITO (Photo credit should read JOEL NITO/AFP/Getty Images)

In February, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the island was a “cesspool,” CNN reports. “As long as there is s*** coming out of those pipes draining to the sea, I will never give you the time of the day (to return)” to the island, he said.

When Boracay officially shuts down on April 26, no tourists will be allowed on the island. Boracay accounts for about 15% of the Philippines’ total number of tourists, and the beach destination brought in $1.07 billion in tourism revenue in 2017, reports Al Jazeera. Its closure poses a huge threat to Boracay’s economy, with more than 36,000 workers expected to be affected and a loss of $1 billion in tourism spending predicted.

The government is floating “calamity funds” to help bolster the workers affected by the island’s closure. Both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are scaling back their Boracay-bound flights starting in late April.

Although the environmental rehabilitation is expected to take until October, Bloomberg cites Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre saying that speeding up the overhaul could put Boracay’s “soft opening” somewhere around July.

(Photo by /AFP/Getty Images)

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