As a world-famous tourist destination, the news about the Boracay closure issue made the headlines on both local and international media portals. Those who frequent Boracay now are now in a fuss: what’s going on in Boracay, and what are people doing about it?
The decision to temporarily close down Boracay Island was called by President Rodrigo Duterte last April 4. It was based on the recommendation by the interagency for Boracay, including the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Tourism and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to use the period to restore Boracay to its former beauty. The three agencies were tasked to address the environmental problems plaguing the island after Duterte tagged Boracay as a “cesspool” in a statement made last February.
The closure is expected to affect around 36,000 workers, according to the Local Government Unit of Malay. Closing off the island to visitors is also expected to hurt the country’s tourism industry, considering the volume of tourists that Boracay is logging in. In fact, in 2017, the island catered to more than 2.1 million tourists, a proof that it is indeed a main driver of the country’s tourism.
The closure aims to address the environmental problems plaguing the island brought about by the continued developments and its ever-increasing number of tourists. Particularly, the six-month rehabilitation will focus on clearing the island’s drainage system, removing illegal structures on its forestland and wetlands, demolishing structures encroaching beach easements, and resuming road-widening projects. To fast-track the demolition and construction works in implementing these projects, tourists will be provisionally banned from entering and staying on the island.
During the shutdown, no local and foreign tourists will be allowed in the 1,032 hectare island. Only residents and workers from Boracay’s three villages—Manocmanoc, Balabag, and Yapak—will be allowed to enter. To prove their residency, they must show their IDs upon entering the port. Visitors of island residents will be allowed to enter, but only under emergency situations.
Swimming will also be prohibited anywhere around the island, except in Angol Beach in Station 3. Residents will only be allowed to swim from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM. One entry-one exit rule will also be implemented while the island remains closed off.
Before the start of the closure, rehabilitation works were already rolling since February. Drainage lines have been dug open to check on illegal connections. Some businesses whose buildings and structures were within the beach easement, as well as those encroaching the road easement, have already taken it upon themselves to demolish their site. Establishments found violating any environmental and local laws have also been ordered to cease operations.
If all these actions that both the government and the private sector comes to fruition, then the problems cited might be solved faster, and the island reopened sooner. More than the issue of tourism, the issue of maintenance for the environment’s sake should of prime importance. Thus, everyone is hoped to cooperate, so that Boracay is restored to its well-known glory, and local businesses resume their livelihood as soon as possible.