Duterte closes tourist island over sewage

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Manila, April 5 (IANS) Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a six-month closure of Boracay island, one of the country’s main tourist destinations, and described it as a “cesspool” of water pollution, an official confirmed on Thursday.

Boracay is a 1,032-hectare island located about 300 km south of Manila which, in 2017 alone, received over two million visitors.

The island will be closed to the public from April 26, Harry Rogue, Duterte’s spokesman, told Efe news.

After a meeting with his cabinet, the President endorsed the measure Wednesday night on the recommendation of the Departments of Natural Resources, Tourism and Interior to solve the environmental problems on the island, the spokesman said, without offering more details.

Duterte threatened to shut down the famous island in February as he called it as a “cesspool” and said that the water there smells like “s**t”.

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Since then several proposals have been made to rehabilitate the island, including a two-month closure at the beginning of the monsoon season in July and August or a gradual closure in different phases to modernise the island’s sewerage system and prevent hotels, resorts and other establishments from disposing of waste into the sea.

The three departments unanimously recommended the President to completely close Boracay for six months from the beginning of April, which will have a major impact on businesses and workers on the island.

Around 36,000 people will be affected by this order, while the island is expected to lose over 56,000 million pesos or over a billion US dollars.

Earlier in March, Duterte also said that he would place the island under the “state of calamity” if he ordered its closure, so that those affected by the measure would receive financial assistance.

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The closure came after the government endorsed in February a project worth $500 million proposed by a Macao company to construct a casino and resort in Boracay.

–IANS

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