Philippines to shut polluted isle of Boracay Duterte called a cesspool

Philippines to shut polluted isle of Boracay Duterte called a cesspool

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the closure of the tourist destination of Boracay for up to six months after saying the waters off its famed white-sand beaches had become a “cesspool” due to overcrowding and development.

Duterte approved the total shutdown of Boracay as a tourist destination starting April 26 in a Cabinet meeting Wednesday night after extensive discussions of its impact, including ways to help about 17,000 workers who may be displaced, tourism undersecretary Frederick Alegre said Thursday.

 This cinemagraph made with video footage shows the beach resort island of Boracay Philippines.  

This cinemagraph made with video footage shows the beach resort island of Boracay Philippines.  

“This is not about profit, it’s about the political will to deal with years of neglect of the environment,” Alegre said. “We need to act swiftly to save the island and avert its further deterioration.”

Last February, Duterte said Boracay’s water has turned into a “cesspool” with human waste being discharged into the sea.

More than 2 million tourists visited Boracay last year to enjoy its powdery beaches, spectacular sunsets and festive nightlife, generating about 56 billion pesos ($1 billion) in revenue. But the influx of tourists, neglected infrastructure and growth of resort establishments and poor settlements have threatened to turn Boracay into a “dead island” in less than a decade, according to a government study.

In this March 12, 2018, photo, foreign tourists sunbathe at a beach on Boracay island, central Aklan province, Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

An almost empty beachfront lies on the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines a day before the government implements it's temporary closure on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The island can only sustain 30,000 people but teems with 70,000 at any time, including 50,000 residents and daily arrivals of about 20,000 tourists, Alegre said.

Hundreds of settlers have also illegally built homes and structures in forests and protected wetlands over the years, officials said.

Only about 47 percent of the hundreds of establishments are connected to the island’s main sewerage treatment plant, with many of the rest possibly maintaining crude septic tanks and others discharging their waste directly into the sea, Alegre said.

Parts of the 1,000-hectare (2,471-acre) island in central Aklan province could re-open earlier than six months if sewage containment and treatment systems could be built earlier and beach resorts comply with environmental regulations, he said.

Boys sculpt a sign with sand at the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.  (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Philippine Airlines said it would reduce flights en route to airports serving as a gateway to the small island, about 315 kilometers (196 miles) south of Manila.

Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said emergency calamity funds would be used to help workers at tourist establishments affected by Boracay’s temporary closure.

About 17,000 are employed in Boracay’s tourist establishments, and 10,000 to 12,000 others benefit from the bustling tourism business.

A waiter stands outside their restaurant as the sun sets at the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A similar decision was made in Thailand where Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Leh island in the Andaman Sea, will be closed for four months starting in June.

Many Thai marine parks close for part of the year but the release of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, “The Beach,” in 2000 made picturesque Maya Bay so popular it stayed open year-round. It averages 200 boats and 4,000 visitors daily, but recent surveys found the area’s coral reefs and sea life damaged or gone.

Other Thai destinations ruined by mass tourism, Koh Yoong in the Phi Phi island chain and Koh Tachai in the Similan Islands National Park, have been off-limits to tourists permanently since mid-2016.

A tourist walks with his dog, on the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, Tuesday, April 24, 2018.  (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Tourists crowd the beach front as they wait for the sun set, on the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Thousands of workers will be affected when the resort closes after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered its closure on April 26 for up to six months after saying the waters off its famed white-sand beaches had become a "cesspool" due to overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A boy plays with algae as he swins in the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A Filipino boy with sand on his face plays at the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Thousands of workers will be affected when Boracay will be closed after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte orders it's closure on April 26 for up to six months after saying the waters off it's famed white-sand beaches had become a "cesspool" due to overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A resident collects seaweeds during a clean up drive along the beachfront as the government implements the temporary closure of the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, Thursday, April 26, 2018. Boracay, famed for its white-sand beaches, closes for up to six months to recover from overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A resident collects seaweeds during a clean up drive along the beachfront as the government implements the temporary closure of the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, Thursday, April 26, 2018. Boracay, famed for its white-sand beaches, closes for up to six months to recover from overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Dogs play beside a drainage pipe that discharges it's untreated sewage into the waters at the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines a day before the government implements it's temporary closure on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Thousands of workers will be affected when Boracay will be closed after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte orders it's closure on April 26 for up to six months after saying the waters off it's famed white-sand beaches had become a "cesspool" due to overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A sign is placed outside the port in Caticlan, the gateway to the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Thousands of workers will be affected when Boracay will be closed after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte orders it's closure on April 26 for up to six months after saying the waters off it's famed white-sand beaches had become a "cesspool" due to overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Young residents sit underneath drainage pipes as the government implements the temporary closure of the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Boracay, famed for it's white-sand beaches, closes for up to six months to recover from overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A woman who sells swimwear waits for customers at the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Thousands of workers will be affected when Boracay will be closed after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte orders it's closure on April 26 for up to six months after saying the waters off it's famed white-sand beaches had become a "cesspool" due to overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

 A man sits under a tree as many of the beachfront restaurants and business establishments stopped operations today as the government implements the temporary closure of the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Many workers on the island were left jobless as Boracay, famed for it's powdery white-sand beaches, closes for up to six months to recover from overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A man sits under a tree as many of the beachfront restaurants and business establishments stopped operations today as the government implements the temporary closure of the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Many workers on the island were left jobless as Boracay, famed for it's powdery white-sand beaches, closes for up to six months to recover from overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A worker waits outside a shop that stopped operations at the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines a day before the government implements it's temporary closure on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Tourists rushed out of the island and some shops have stopped operations a day before it's temporary closure on April 26 for up to six months after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the waters off it's famed white-sand beaches had become a "cesspool" due to overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Filipino cook Marlon Laguna, left, sits outside their closed beachfront restaurant as the government implements the temporary closure of the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Many workers in the island are now jobless as Boracay, famed for its white-sand beaches, closes for up to six months to recover from overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A worker carries bags as passengers walk to get a boat ride out of the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines a day before the government implements it's temporary closure on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Tourists rushed out of the island and some shops have stopped operations a day before it's temporary closure on April 26 for up to six months after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the waters off it's famed white-sand beaches had become a "cesspool" due to overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A Filipino couple enjoys the last sunset a day before the government implements the temporary closure of the country's most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Tourists are spending their final hours on Boracay, enjoying the Philippine island's famed white-sand beaches before it closes for up to six months to recover from overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)


Text from the AP news story, Philippines to shut polluted isle Duterte called a cesspool, by Aaron Favila.

Photos by Aaron Favila