President Duterte has confirmed that a six-month closure of Boracay Island will start later this month.
The decision to close the renowned white-sand resort for environmental rehabilitation was announced by presidential spokesman Harry Roque today (Wednesday, April 4).
The condition of the island has been under the spotlight since the president described it as a “cesspool” in February.
Inspections of the island revealed numerous environmental violations, including sewage pipes discharging directly into the sea.
Investigations also uncovered numerous business premises encroaching onto protected areas, including the island’s ecologically crucial wetland areas.
Business owners have urged a phase closure or an opportunity to address the various issues themselves, but to no avail.
Despite many of the problems on the island being linked to overdevelopment, plans for a $500 million casino-resort on the island are pressing ahead.
As we reported last month, the Malacañang has denied the closure is related to the plan, which recieved the personal blessing of the president.
“I see no link between the casino and whatever decision the president will make. His decision will depend exclusively on what is best to protect the environment of Boracay,” Roque said in a palace briefing.
The recommendation to close Boracay to tourists From April 26 until October came from the Department of the Interior and Local Government. The Department of Tourism and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had also called for a “total” closure, according to Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
The president wants funds devoted to helping the island’s residents whose livelihoods will be affected by the closure.
“Calamity funds will be activated to tide affected workers over,” said Guevarra.
Boracay business owners have estimated that closing the island for a year would put 36,000 people out of work and would mean a loss of 56 billion pesos.
The National Economic and Development Authority, however, has claimed that a six-month closure would have minimal impact on the economy.