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Paradise Boracay a ‘cesspool’ of sewage, closed to tourists for six months

THE PHILIPPINES: Calling the popular Philippines tourist island of Boracay a “cesspool” tainted by dumped sewage, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the island closed to tourists for up to six months.

tourismpollutioneconomicsenvironmentnatural-resources
By AFP

Friday 6 April 2018, 02:43PM


“Boracay is known as a paradise in our nation and this temporary closure is (meant) to ensure that the next generations will also experience that,” Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, told reporters yesterday (April 5).

The decision jeopardises the livelihood of thousands employed in the island’s bustling tourist trade that each year serves two million guests and pumps roughly US$1 billion (About B31.29bn) in revenue into the Philippine economy.

Experts said the measure also appeared to contradict the government’s own pro-development policy for the island, including the recent approval of a planned US$500-million (B15.64bn) casino and resort on Boracay.

The threat of closure first emerged in February when Duterte blasted the tiny island’s hundreds of tourism-related hotels, restaurants and other businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea and turning it into a “cesspool”.

Authorities said yesterday that some businesses were using the island’s drainage system to send untreated sewage into its surrounding turquoise waters.

The environment ministry says 195 businesses, along with more than 4,000 residential customers, are not connected to sewer lines.

But within weeks of Duterte lashing out at the local businesses, the Philippines gave the green light for Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment to begin construction next year of the casino and resort complex.

How will I survive?’

“The casino contradicts all the efforts now of cleaning up and making sure Boracay goes back to the state where it doesn’t violate its carrying capacity,” former Philippine environment undersecretary Antonio La Vina told AFP.

He added that the area has seen “unlimited” development because “local government units and the national government agencies did not do their job of enforcing rules on land use, environmental impact assessment”.

Authorities said they would use the closure to build new sewage and drainage systems, demolish structures built on wetlands and sue officials and businessmen who violated environmental laws.

The impact of the decision was already being felt, with domestic airlines announcing they would scale back the number of flights to the jumping off point to the 1,000-hectare (6,250-rai) island.

Malaysian low-cost carrier Asia Air has suspended all of its domestic and international flights to Boracay until further notice.

“I am really in a quandary on how to handle six months (of closure),” budget hostel manager Manuel Raagas told AFP.

“There will be no income and we have bills to pay so I don’t know how I will survive.”

Officials said they were willing to take a hard line, saying police and potentially even soldiers would enforce the closure.

“We will issue guidelines on how to bar tourists from entering starting from the port,” interior assistant secretary Epimaco Densing told reporters yesterday.

“Whether foreign or local, they will not be allowed to enter the island.”

The Boracay Foundation Inc., a business association on the island, had asked the government to shut down only those violating environmental laws.

“It’s unfair for compliant establishments to be affected by the closure,” Executive Director Pia Miraflores told AFP.

Miraflores said that even before the ban was announced, its shadow had hit some businesses hard in Boracay.

Some couples who scheduled their weddings on the island up to a year or two in advance had cancelled their reservations even before the ban was announced, she said, with tour agents also besieged with client calls on whether to pursue their planned trips.

Boracay employs 17,000 people, as well as 11,000 construction workers working on new projects.

 

 

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BenPendejo | 06 April 2018 - 19:26:38

Good move. Phuket needs an equally hard stance, but will never happen. All hotels should be inspected to ensure there are no illegal wastewater discharges, and if there are, they should be barred from accepting any more reservations until they have made the necessary improvements. Even if it involves installing temporary holding tanks that can be pumped and hauled away. Make for lots of jobs

RogerFox | 06 April 2018 - 18:59:14

Six years, not 6 months - that's how long Phuket would have to be shut down to even begin to make a dent in the environmental catastrophe that greed has visited on us. Don't hold your miserable farang breath, Whitey - the Thais don'r care.

Discover Thainess | 06 April 2018 - 16:13:34

A tough decision but clearly the right one to ensure the islands success and beauty for generations to come. Phuket - follow suit and do the same. Give the island a chance to repair. It worked for Bali and I am sure it will work for Boracay. 

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