Boracay, the island which welcomed more than two million tourists last year, has been closed to tourists since April 26. From being one of the busiest tourist destinations, the island is now only open to locals, workers, and people directly involved in the rehabilitation of the island. But what is the reason for closing Boracay in the first place?
The temporary closure of the island was recommended by an inter-agency group composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). They made the crucial call after President Rodrigo Duterte deemed the world-famous island a “cesspool” back in February this year. Following the president’s proclamation, the inter-agency conducted a series of inspections on the island to evaluate its compliance with health codes and environmental policies.
After a series of inspections, they discovered a number of violations on environmental and local policies. These violations greatly contributed to the deteriorating state of the water quality of the island, especially in Bulabog Beach. Upon further investigation, they discovered that the poor state of the water is due to illegal sewer connections to the drainage lines of the island.
With the spotlight now shone on Boracay, the government opted to further their investigation. They started the crackdown on illegal structures on the island’s wetlands and forestlands. Illegal structures within the 25+5 beach easement and those within 6 meters from the center of the road were also identified and duly demolished.
Authorities blamed most of these problems on the unprecedented development in Boracay, due to its ever-increasing volume of visitors. They constantly furthered their businesses without adhering strictly to established environmental policies. Since 2012, the island has been admitting more than one million tourists each year. Last year, it received more than 2 million local and foreign tourists.
To cater to these people, more businesses opened up on the island. Big businesses built their resorts, hotels, and restaurants abundantly and haphazardly. Aside from tourists, the number of people living on the island has also increased through the years. More workers have also relocated to Boracay. This prompted the construction of even more boarding houses and residential buildings.
Thus, the government’s hand was forced to come at the decision: that Boracay would be closed for at least six months to rehabilitate itself and restore its former glory.
However, the total shutdown of the island’s tourism activities met the objection of many business owners and local stakeholders. Aside from the drastic shortfall in profit, a number of people whose jobs depend on the tourism industry would have to leave the island and look for a source of income elsewhere.
Despite objections, the government remained firm on its decision. The government believed that the closure is necessary to fast-track the rehabilitation, so that the island can also resume operations as soon as possible, and the people who rely on it can pick up where they left off.
But in the meantime, instead of the usual busy island, the island is now taking its temporary rest.