Looming Boracay shutdown shocks business operators


Posted at Mar 16 2018 11:05 AM | Updated as of Mar 16 2018 01:30 PM

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MANILA - The looming shutdown of the Philippines' famous white-sand island Boracay has shocked business operators on the island, with many fearing loss of livelihoods if the island paradise is closed for a year. 

"It came as a shock because we have been talking about it for the past couple of days, that it could be shut down for 2 months. We were surprised that it could last a year. In short, there was no preparation," Nenette Aguirre-Graf, president of the Boracay Foundation, Inc., told radio DZMM. 

Aguirre-Graf said shutting down the island would have a huge impact on tourism, and affect thousands of workers on the island. 

"Ano ang kakainin ng aming trabahador mula sa araw na mag close? Saan sila hahanap ng trabaho? Pati yung mga eskwelahan. Paano yung aming mga negosyo na halimbawa nagbabayad ng renta, kaka renew lang ng permit, kaka-invest lang ng gagamitin ngayong taon siyempre sa season," she said. 

"And what about those tourists who are already booked in hotels? Do we return their money?" 

"It's not just the economy but the impact on tourism. How do you explain that to the international community - 'Don't go here. Go to a different destination?'" 

Boracay, 308 kilometers (190 miles) south of Manila, is one of the Philippines' top tourist destinations, attracting some two million visitors each year. 

It has some 500 tourism-related businesses, although most of the island's supplies have to be shipped in from nearby ports.

On Thursday an interagency task force on Boracay said it will recommend the declaration of a state of calamity for six months. 

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said he will also recommend to the president the closure of Boracay Island as a tourist destination for a maximum of one year, saying the island's sewerage system needed upgrading.

The President recently described Boracay, famous for its long, wide beach and powder-like sand, as a “cesspool” due to the island’s dysfunctional sewerage system. 

Several beachfront establishments have also been accused of violating easement rules. With Agence France-Presse