The Philippines is Closing Down Boracay Island for Six Months

Aerial View of Boracay Island
Aerial View of Boracay Island | © R. M. Nunes / Shutterstock
Photo of Ronica Valdeavilla
Writer5 April 2018

Boracay Island, the favourite tourist destination in the Visayas Region known for its pristine waters and ultra fine white sand beach will soon be shut down to tourists. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte referred to the world-famous island as a “cesspool”, and it is now on course for a six-month closure due to its prevailing sewage conditions. A spokesperson for the president confirmed this will take place on April 26.

‘Worsening’ sewage condition

Traces of algae seen along Boracay shores | © Joannerfabregas/Wikimedia Commons

In a business forum at Davao City last February 9, the incumbent President of the Philippines expressed his dismay over the worsening conditions in Boracay.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smell of what? Shit. Because it all comes out in Boracay,” Duterte said. The blunt political leader wasn’t hesitant to threaten to close the island should hotels, restaurants, and businesses fail to cooperate in cleaning up Boracay – which he now referred to as a ‘cesspool.’

According to tourism officials, the island’s current sewage conditions have worsened. Officials discovered that some establishments (and even local resident houses) ‘illegally tapped’ their sewage line into the water line, thus their sewage is being drained directly into the open sea. Of the 150 establishments they’ve inspected, only 25 were found connected to the sewage line, Tourism Department spokesman Ricky Alegre said.

The story behind the algal bloom

Algal bloom causes water to turn green | Image taken by Ronica Valdeavilla

This was not the first time that the sewage condition has been brought up. Early last year, many tourists were reportedly disappointed with the algal bloom in some areas of the island. Thus, the beauty of the four-kilometre stretch of white sand was grimed by the island’s waters that turned green and slimy.

While algal bloom seemed to be a natural occurrence during the summer, a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency from 2010 to 2015 found that one of the main causes of algal bloom and coral reef deterioration was ‘untreated’ waste water flowing into the sea.

Duterte’s six-month warning

“I’ll give you six months. Clean the goddamn thing,” President Duterte told Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. If after six months the condition remains the same or gets worse, Duterte would close the island as Boracay will soon drive away visitors because of this environmental disaster. The Tourism Department would shut down establishments found to have been illegally connecting to the water line for their waste disposal.

While some residents felt offended by the President’s remark, others believe that it was necessary to serve as a wake-up call for officials to do something about this pressing issue. “Maybe the governor, congressman and local government units will wake up,” one resident said.

White sand beach of Boracay | © Alexey Komarov/Wikimedia Commons

Every year, Boracay draws in about two million tourists and brings in 56 billion Philippine pesos in annual revenues, according to sources. When closed down for tourism, thousands of workers living on the island will also be jobless.