Boracay closed for 6 months starting April 26, says Roque

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 04 2018 09:40 PM | Updated as of Apr 05 2018 07:29 AM

Tourism industry 'a bit depressed' right now, says tourism congress chief

MANILA (4th UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the total closure for 6 months of Boracay effective April 26, his spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte approved during Wednesday's Cabinet meeting the recommendation of the interior, environment, and tourism departments to close Boracay for 6 months to give way to its rehabilitation.

The island will be fully closed to tourism, according to Roque.

Duterte, who has described Boracay as a cesspool, had already said he was amenable to a 6-month closure of the island, even as the trade department proposed a phased closure of the island paradise in consideration of the locals who depend on the tourism industry for their livelihood.

Jose Clemente III, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, said the government's decision came as a surprise.

"We were expecting some sort of compromise between a partial or total closure or at least given more time to adjust to a closure, but I guess the president made up his mind and we’re taken aback by it. We’re a bit depressed right now in the industry," Clemente told ANC's "Business Nightly."

"If given the opportunity, yes, we would like to present our case. The private sector did not have a face-to-face dialogue with the president. We were doing it through the various agencies. Unfortunately, I guess this is the result of the recommendations of those agencies."

Businesses and workers had been anxiously waiting for the government’s decision on Boracay, especially since the proposed April 26 shutdown comes before the annual Labor Day parties on the island, which attract thousands of tourists.

A shutdown of Boracay could lead to job losses for 36,000 people and P56 billion in lost revenue, stakeholders earlier said, as they appealed for a partial, instead of a full closure.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said calamity funds will be "activated" to sustain affected workers over the island's closure. Roque said the President would also be declaring a state of calamity in Boracay to fast track its rehabilitation. 

Some 19,000 people work in the formal sector including hotels, resorts, restaurants, dive shops, souvenir shops, tour activity centers, and transport providers, data from the Boracay Foundation showed.

Another 17,000 work in the informal sector as massage therapists, tattoo artists, and vendors by the beach, data showed.

About P56 billion in tourism revenue will be lost if the island is closed for 9 months, based on the island's revenue during the first 9 months of 2017, data showed. This is equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the country's total tourism receipts.

The government’s decision to shut down Boracay for 6 months was met with both praises and disappointment online.

“Let the island rest for a while. Time to heal, Boracay. People have devastated you for so long. Rest for a while and I'll see you soon, Boracay!” said Twitter user Noel Soriano.

“So, is Boracay really being closed to fix the sanitation issues or is it so the casino can be built without hindrance?” said another Twitter user Cindy.

Boracay is one of the Philippines' top 8 tourist destinations, according to the Department of Tourism. 

In 2017, some 3.72 million people flew to the island, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.