Philippines to rein in visitors to Boracay island, strained by tourism

Philippines to rein in visitors to Boracay island, strained by tourism

A view of an empty beach a day before the temporary closure of the holiday island Boracay in the Ph
A view of an empty beach a day before the temporary closure of the holiday island Boracay in the Philippines April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/Files

MANILA: The Philippines will limit the number of visitors setting foot on its most treasured island resort each day when it reopens to tourists on Oct 26 after a six-month rehabilitation effort, an environment official said on Wednesday (Oct 3).

Boracay, located off the northern tip of the central island of Panay, is famed for its sugary white sands, turquoise waters, lively nightlife and abundant water sports. It attracted nearly 2 million domestic and foreign visitors last year.

But in April, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of the island, calling it a "cesspool", because of sewage dumped into the sea and buildings constructed too close to the shore.

A resident walks his dog in an empty beach during the shutdown of the holiday island Boracay
A resident walks his dog in an empty beach during the shutdown of the holiday island Boracay, in Philippines April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/Files

INTERACTIVE: Closing Boracay: How the Philippines shut down paradise

About a third of the 600 to 700 resorts on Boracay, about 308km from Manila, the capital, were operating without permits, authorities found.

Just 19,000 tourists will be allowed on the island on any given day, with the number of workers capped at 15,000 daily, the environment official, Sherwin Rigor, said in a television interview.

Only half of the island's 12,000 existing hotel rooms will be allowed to open each day, he added, to ensure the number of guests on the tiny 10-sq-km island is below its "carrying capacity" of 55,000.

READ: Boracay businesses pray for early relief from President Duterte’s island shutdown

Rigor, who is an undersecretary at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, added that authorities would ban beachfront parties, and activities such as eating, smoking and drinking there.

Water sports - including diving - will also be temporarily banned after the island reopens, local media said. After the temporary ban, the government will designate spots for each of the island's six water sports organisations to prevent overcrowding. 

The closure of Boracay, which earns the Philippines more than a billion dollars in tourism revenue every year, weighed on gross domestic product in the second quarter. Growth slowed to a near three-year low of 6 per cent in April-June.

Source: Reuters/na

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