One of the most popular vacation spots in the Philippines, the island of Boracay, is undergoing a “total closure” to tourists beginning April 26 and lasting for six months, according to Philippines Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. The idyllic island regularly appears on round-ups of the world’s best beaches, which likely contributed to the massive numbers of visitors.
The beautiful white sands of Boracay drew nearly 1.7 million tourists (including many arriving via cruise ship) last year, but Boracay did not have the proper infrastructure to handle that many people. The main issue causing the shutdown is improper waste management, after a study found that the majority of hotels, restaurants, and houses were draining sewage directly into the sea rather than treating it or disposing of it in an environmentally responsible manner. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was quoted earlier this year as saying, “As long as there is shit coming out of those pipes draining to the sea, I will never give you the time of the day (to return)” to the island.
Most of Boracay’s 17,000 residents are employed in the tourism industry, and emergency funds have been allocated to help the island’s economy during the shutdown. During the island’s forced closure, the government will work to clean up the island and the water, with business owners likely responsible for remedying their improper sewage systems.
Cebu Pacific, one of the main airlines flying to Boracay, has announced the cancellation of many flights to and from Boracay’s main airports (Caticlan and Kalibo), but will continue to operate some routes in order to serve the island’s residents.