Tourists take photographs along local sailboats on the island of Boracay, central Philippines. (Reuters Photo/Charlie Saceda)

Philippine Minister Seeks One-Year Closure of Holiday Island for Cleanup


MARCH 16, 2018

Manila. The Philippine environment minister has recommended the closure of the country's most famous holiday island, Boracay, for up to a year to clean it up, a month after President Rodrigo Duterte called it a "cesspool."

Boracay is known for its powdery white sand and warm blue waters and travel magazine consistently vote it a top destination.

But its development and the two million domestic and foreign tourists who visit every year have taken a toll.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the island's sewerage system needed upgrading, it needed solid waste management facilities and the demolition of illegal structures in forests and wetlands.

"I recommend to the president the closure of Boracay Island as a tourist destination for a maximum of one year," he said.

Duterte lambasted authorities and island residents last month, saying they had created a disaster with "overzealous" development.

He denounced piles of uncollected garbage just meters from the beach and sewage flowing into the sea and said he was giving Cimatu six months to fix things.

The government would try to clean up the island in less than a year and state agencies were getting ready to help workers who would be displaced, while airlines would take tourists elsewhere, said Environment Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna.

"For the hotels, there's a sense that they would really appreciate this rehabilitation and cleanup because at the end of it all, it will be a more sustainable business for them," she said.

But an island business group was dismayed by the prospect of closure for one year.

"It will be difficult to get up once you were closed," Nenette Graf, president of the Boracay Foundation Inc, told ANC news channel.