Government wanted to prevent ‘LaBoracay’ mess in ordering island shutdown - tourism official

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 05 2018 08:16 PM

A sewer pipe is seen crossing the Bulabog beach towards the sea on Boracay Island in this photo taken on March 22. Environmental experts raised concern over the pollution problem in the island and recommended a closure of the tourist destination for 6 months for rehabilitation. Mark Saludes, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A tourism official on Thursday admitted that the government had the so-called “LaBoracay” in mind when it chose April 26 as the start of the 6-month shutdown of Boracay.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said the national and local governments had decided to cancel this year’s LaBoracay or Labor Day parties to save the island from further degradation. 

The move was also to ensure the safety of tourists who may suffer from diseases caused by the island’s contaminated waters.

LaBoracay, a play on "Labor Day" and Boracay, is held annually on the island during the week of the May 1 holiday. Thousands had already booked flights and rooms for the LaBoracay parties when the government announced the April 26 shutdown.

“We didn’t want to talk about ‘LaBoracay’ but it was the governor (Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores) himself and the LGU who decided to cancel LaBoracay," Alegre said in a Palace press briefing.

"The April 26 [start date] really was to avoid the influx of 30,000 people for five days, four nights because it will just add to the already problematic sewerage and waste that is collected. And now that they have canceled it, it gives us more reason to be able to work on it earlier and faster so that we can bring back the operations [on] the island earlier,” he said. 

Alegre added that the earlier than expected shutdown of the island was to ensure that no more untoward incident would happen when thousands of tourists troop to the renowned beach destination. 

“We figured that the sooner it shut down, the better, because we don’t want to put people in harm’s way. We don’t want people to be exposed to the pollution,” he said.

Alegre said while Boracay continues to lure thousands of tourists, the government would rather lose revenues than see further environmental degradation on the island. 

“We have to swallow the bitter pill if we wish to sustain and protect the island of Boracay. We want to bring it back to its paradise feel that we saw in the ‘80s," Alegre said.

"It may not be achieved, but we know that in doing this cleanup and rehab as ordered by the President, more people will come to Boracay – we assure you about that. And it’s just something that we have to do. It’s a temporary setback but we will recover the glory days of Boracay."