The popular tourist island of Boracay in the Philippines is, unfortunately, off limits to tourists. Closed in April, the island’s economy suffers greatly, as Boracay houses more than five hundred tourist-oriented businesses. According to the Philippine government, the businesses closed will receive some sort of financial aid. The time off will be used to clean up the beaches and repair the roads.
The reason for the closing of the island lies in its environmental issues, as well as problems with the sewage. The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, was outraged and compared the island to a cesspool. The President didn’t act on a whim, but rather approved the recommendation of three separate government agencies that urged him to shut down the island, due to the extensive damage.
The origin of the sewage problem lies in the inadequate waste disposal by a number of hotels, inns and resorts. The establishments failed in their requirement to build their own sewage and water treatment facilities. They have, allegedly, used the canals meant only for diverting rainwater as a waste disposal measurement. This, in turn, caused an increased pollution of the seaside, affecting not only tourism, but wildlife as well. Coral reefs, desperately need this shutdown to recover. It is unclear how much, if any, environmental damage has been done by the tourists themselves.
President Duterte commented that the sea smells of feces, and that the tourists would probably take that smell with them, thus endangering their health. He further announced that the duration of island’s time of not operating as a tourist resort would last at least six months. This comes as no surprise, as, back in February, the President already threatened to shut the island down, if the businesses didn’t start cleaning up.
The assistant secretary for tourism, Frederick Alegre, said that this was a temporary situation, and that Boracay will be brought back to its “glory days”. He added that this is just the first of many Philippine destinations that are going to be looked at closely in terms of environmental protection, as the message they are trying to send is ‘More Fun in the Philippines’.
While over two million tourists visited the island in 2017, this year, there has been a plethora of cancelled bookings, both by the resorts and the airline companies. Philippine Airlines promised refunds and rebookings to the affected tourists.
This isn’t the only island that faces a shutdown, as a number of tourist hotspots experience similar issues. Koh Phi Phi Leh in Thailand will have to close its Maya Beach for four months. The beach was made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Beach. The reason for the shutdown is the environmental damage caused by the tourists.