The Philippines announced on Thursday it would “totally close down” the popular tourist island of Boracay for six months to clean it up. President Rodrigo Duterte described the island as a “sewer pool”, and his spokesperson said the island will be closed from April 26.
The decision to shut down the island for tourists is expected to “pave the way for the island’s restoration as a tourism paradise”. “Boracay will be relaunched,” Duterte’s Spokesperson Harry Roque said. “Boracay will always be there. And the closure is necessary to ensure that Boracay will be there for the next generation.”
The government will start by checking which hotels and resorts comply with environmental regulations and then build new sewage lines on the island. The government will provide “alternative and temporary” livelihood support to the workers who will be affected by the shutdown.
Boracay is a top destination for local and foreign tourists and attracted nearly two million visitors and over a billion dollars in revenue in 2017, Reuters reported. The government has accused businesses on the island of releasing wastewater directly into the sea and violating rules on wastewater management.
The decision has prompted airlines to scale down their flights and hotels to prepare for cancellations of bookings. The island generates 20% of the country’s tourism industry revenue, according to Aljazeera.