One of the world’s famous holiday islands Boracay in the Philippines is reopened today, six months after it was shut down for a massive clean-up operation.
In February, President Rodrigo Duterte criticised the island’s hotels, restaurants and other businesses, accusing them of dumping raw sewage into the sea, turning it into a ‘cesspool’.
AFP reported that other than upgrading the outdated sewerage and drainage system costing over PHP1 billion (USD18.5 million), the new rules saw 400 hotels and restaurants deemed to violate local environmental laws ordered to be closed, while airlines and ferries were directed to restrict service to the area.
The beachfront has been cleared of masseuses, vendors, bonfires and even the builders of its famous photo-op sandcastles. Buildings were bulldozed and businesses pushed back to create a 30-metre buffer zone from the waterline. As part of Duterte’s orders, the island’s three casinos were also shut down.
Only 19,200 tourists will be allowed on the island at any time by controlling the number of available hotel rooms. During previous peak periods, the island received 40,000 visitors.
While the waters are now safe for swimming, all watersports are banned until further notice. Single-use plastics, alcohol consumption on the beach as well as beachfront parties are no longer allowed, too.
Although the island has been reopened, officials urged tourists to ‘manage expectations’ as the full rehabilitation work could take up to two years.