It is now official. The entire island of Boracay will be closed for six months starting April 26, 2018. President Rodrigo Duterte finally approved the closure proposal jointly lodged by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The popular island resort would be subject to rehabilitation in line with the government’s goal to address environmental issues in the area. President Duterte surprised everyone when he described the waters of the island as a ‘cesspool’ in February with a warning to shut Boracay down if the public and private sectors in the locality do not immediately resolve the problem.
He then created an inter-agency committee comprising of the three mentioned departments to devise and implement plans to heal the island within six months. In the first week of March, the three departments initially recommended a two-month closure of Boracay along with a six-month state of calamity over the area. But as the weeks passed, the recommendation was revised to a six-month closure. There are even talks that the initiative might even last more than six months to complete.
No ‘LaBoracay’ this year
The provincial government of Aklan, which rules over the island, has already recommended the cancellation of the annual ‘LaBoracay’—the Labor-Day weeklong event scheduled from April 27 to May 3—to the DILG. The merrymaking event usually brings in up to 40,000 tourists to the island per day.
In line with the six-month closure, the President is also set to soon declare a state of calamity in Boracay to expedite all processes that the rehabilitation would require. Calamity funds would also be released to provide aid to more than 30,000 workers who will be affected by the temporary shutdown of the tourism island.
Meanwhile, DILG said it is also preparing to file administrative cases against local government officials—from barangay captains to municipal councilors and even the mayor (of Malay town) and provincial governor.
The agency is questioning why the local government declared a collection of just P91 million from environmental fees in 2017, when declared tourist arrivals reached two million (that should have amounted to P150 million as each tourist is required to pay P75 for environmental fee).