Boracay could be reopened in four months, Manila says

MANILA • The Philippines is looking to shorten the closure period for its most popular holiday hot spot Boracay from six months down to four but the number of visitors allowed when it reopens will be slashed.

A masterplan to redevelop Boracay into a more liveable and greener place will be finalised after its rehabilitation, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said yesterday.

"I think we can clean it up in four months. That's why we wanted it to be a total closure, for us to do it fast," she said in an interview with ANC news channel.

President Rodrigo Duterte has called the island a "cesspool" because of pollution. Boracay, which will be closed to local and foreign tourists from April 26, has joined other beach resorts in South-east Asia that also increasingly face pressure due to a surge in visitors.

The government wants to save the tiny island, which last year generated 56 billion pesos (S$1.3 billion), but cannot cope under the strain of two million tourists a year. When it is reopened, Mrs Teo said the number of visitors will be limited.

A decade ago, the island was found to be capable of accommodating about 25,000 people. The number of people on the island now is about 75,000, she added.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is undertaking a study to determine the island's "carrying capacity", she said.

The rehabilitation involves the demolition of more than 900 illegal structures, improvement of waste management, and expansion of drainage and sewage systems.

Boracay, on the northern tip of the central Panay island, is home to more than 30,000 people and about 1,800 businesses, including global hotel chains like Shangri-La and Movenpick, and locally listed companies Megaworld Corp and Manila Water Co.

Boracay is popular for its powdery white sand and lively night scene, but about 195 businesses were found to be discharging untreated waste water into the sea, resulting in increased concentration of human faeces along the beaches.

Boracay generates between 90 tonnes and 115 tonnes of trash a day, of which only 30 tonnes are shipped out regularly to a landfill on a nearby island, Mrs Teo said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2018, with the headline 'Boracay could be reopened in four months, Manila says'. Print Edition | Subscribe