Philippines tourist island temporarily shut for sanitation work

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Manila, April 26 (IANS) The Philippines’ Boracay island has been closed to the public for six months starting from Thursday for sanitation and development work at the famous tourist destination.

Beginning midnight, authorities banned visitors entry to the island, located about 300 km south of Manila, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Local media reports showed images of heavy security at the island, reports Efe news.

“We need to rehabilitate Boracay to make it a safe, living and environmentally sustainable island where people from all walks of life can enjoy the benefits its beauty can bring,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said in a statement.

Although there is no concrete plan for Boracay’s rehabilitation, the minister pledged to start during the six months of closure a “first aid solution” to avoid waste dumped in the sea and improve infrastructure.

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“(We will) put sewage and solid waste systems in place; demolish illegal structures… set up rules and regulations to keep Boracay safe, including the use of jetty ports, vehicles and other means of transport, the entry and exit of people… And of course, the governance of the place,” Cimatu said.

During the closure, only residents with proper identification or people with government authorisation can access Boracay, one of the main tourist sites in the Philippines and which received 2 million visitors last year.

In February, President Rodrigo Duterte called the resort a “cesspool” because of its water contamination and later ordered the total closure to the public for six months to resolve environmental issues.

Employers and workers of Boracay staged several protests in the past weeks urging a partial, rather than a full shutdown.

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The livelihood of around 36,000 people will be affected by the closure of Boracay, while tourism industry losses could amount to 56 billion pesos ($1 billion) over nine months.

–IANS

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