Boracay closure to cover even compliant establishments: tourism chief


Posted at Apr 05 2018 08:05 AM | Updated as of Apr 05 2018 08:25 AM

MANILA - The scheduled 6-month closure of Boracay will cover even structures that comply with the law to give way to a major cleanup of the country's most famous holiday island, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said Thursday. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved Boracay's total closure starting April 26, his spokesman Harry Roque announced Wednesday. 

Duterte's directive entails banning all local and foreign tourists from the island, and shutting down all structures there, Teo told DZMM. 

"Lahat, whether compliant ka o hindi, lahat talaga magsakripisyo dito," the official said. 

"Turista, talagang definitely, wala nang turista, whether local or foreign, na papasok," she added.

The government will also demolish some 900 structures within the 30-meter shoreline easement or no-build zone, and those in wetlands or forest lands, said Teo. 

Boracay, on the northern tip of central Panay island, is a top destination for local and foreign tourists and its sugary white sand, lively night scene and abundant water sports attracted nearly 2 million visitors last year. 

The island earns revenue from luxury hotels such as Shangri-La's 5-star Boracay Resort & Spa and beachside restaurants and also employs thousands of local residents.

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Duterte, however, has castigated the local government and residents for "overzealous" development and permitting beachfront building with inadequate sewage and water treatment facilities.

Many businesses on the island have been releasing wastewater directly into the sea, violating rules on wastewater management, according to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. 

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.

Duterte will declare a state of calamity to allow all government agencies to fast track Boracay's rehabilitation, said Teo. Calamity funds will also be "activated" to sustain affected workers over the island's closure, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra had said. 

The closure, which is shorter than the one-year shutdown recommended by the environment ministry, comes just a few weeks after the government gave Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd permission to build a $500 million casino and resort in Boracay.

The government eyes cleaning up other tourist hotspots after the crackdown in Boracay, including the islands of Panglao, Samal and El Nido, Teo said. 

"Lahat po ng mga big destinations, pupuntahan po namin... Titingnan natin ang mga violation," she said. 

With a report from Reuters