The government has issued an assurance that Boracay Island will not be closed for environmental rehabilitation during the upcoming summer season.
Speaking today (Thursday, March 22), presidential spokesman Harry Roque emphasised that tourists were free to visit the renowned white-sand resort for Holy Week.
“No specific instruction has been made by the president regarding the closure. Right now, it’s status quo,” he said during a Malacañang press briefing.
“Proceed to Boracay, especially since it’s Holy Week. I don’t think any closure will happen during the peak season of Boracay.
“We’re looking at possibly, if the president finally accepts the recommendation, lean season.”
On Tuesday, President Duterte gave his support to a one-year closure of the island, even if it would take “a little bit longer” to restore the island to its pristine condition.
Roque added: “We’re looking at possibly, if the President finally accepts the recommendation, Boracay will be closed during lean season,” the Palace official said.
He also said there was now a moratorium on the construction of any new buildings in Boracay.
However, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chair Andrea Domingo confirmed that the government had approved the construction of two casinos in on the island.
Mr Roque added: “I don’t really know how the temporary closure will affect the casinos because they will have to construct. But what I do know is there’s a moratorium right now in place for any further improvements in Boracay.”
Businessmen have today expressed concern over possible job losses from the planned shutdown, saying up to 36,000 workers could be affected. They also told GMA News that the shut down could cost 56 million pesos in lost revenue.
They say there are ways to rehabilitate the island without shutting it down, such as giving establishments 60 days to clean up.
After this time, the government could decide if the island needed to be closed completely and any establishments that failed to clean up could be stripped of their licences.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose Clemente said: “What we are looking for is a general dialogue between the government and the stakeholders. Just give us a timeline. At least give us a year. You announce it tomorrow, March 23, give us until March 23, 2019.”