Boracay if not the number one, is one of the top on list to go for vacation among Filipino and foreign tourists all year round. It is famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, was named the best island resort by magazine publisher Conde Nast in 2016. It was also ranked second out of 25 beaches in Asia and 24th in the world in TripAdvisor's 2018 Travellers' Choice Awards.

BUT the resort island will be closed to tourists for six months from April 26 to fix sewage and environment-related problems that have led President Rodrigo Duterte to describe it as a "cesspool".

“At a distance, you see white sand. But you go into the water, it’s smelly. Smell of what? Shit because everything that goes out in Boracay … it’s destroying the environment or the Republic of the Philippines and creating a disaster,” he said in a business forum in Davao City.

Tourists have already been cancelling bookings. Airlines have advised their passengers that their bookings may be affected by the closure. Some has said it will refund customers, help them rebook, or reroute affected flights.

The government's economic planners said the six-month closure will barely have an impact on tourism-driven growth.The closure will cost the island's tourism sector some 56 billion pesos (S$1.4 billion) if it lasts for a year. Eleven hotels have said their combined losses can run up to 550 million pesos a year.

The Department of Tourism has ceased marketing Boracay and is instead promoting alternative destinations in Western Visayas.

The Philippine National Police Region 6, together with personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy, have started to roam and monitor the area. According to reports, authorities vowed to implement stricter rules and regulations during the six-month closure of the island.

Residents, workers and resort owners will be allowed to enter the island upon their presentation of identification cards with specific addresses in any of the three barangays. Officials said tourists would be stopped at the Caticlan jetty port and no visitors would be allowed except in cases of emergencies and with clearance from authorities.

No floating structures shall be allowed within three kilometers from the shoreline and fishing would be allowed only for Boracay residents. Under the guidelines, only residents would be allowed to swim in the beach at Station 1 at the northern end of the island from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. only.

With two days before authorities start enforcing Mr. Duterte’s order to close Boracay, local tourism stakeholders are coming together to prevent a repeat of the environmental breakdown — and the abrupt decision to close the island for a six—month cleanup — in other tourism destinations around the country.

This developed as the private sector made available as many as 4,000 jobs in different fields for those who will be displaced with the closure of internationally renowned resort destination on Thursday.

“One Boracay” — which has the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) and the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) as key members along with local tourism stakeholders of the island — is currently in touch with their counterparts at other prime tourism destinations in the country.

Residents and business owners on the island were divided over the controversial tag and the closure order, which coincides with the “summer” peak season when international and local tourists flock the island.

05 : 41  AM
Monday 21 January 2019

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