The Philippines Is Closing One Of Its Most Popular Islands To Tourists

Parts of the 1,000-hectare 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.

Duterte late Wednesday ordered the closure of Boracay for six months from April 26 in a bid to rescue from ruin a once idyllic island that drew 2 million tourists and generated over a billion dollars in revenue a year ago. The government this week estimated the closure could shave 0.1% off 2018 GDP.

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

The impact on hotels and resorts has yet to be fully assessed.

The local tourism industry has urged a delay to the planned closure and a gradual introduction, something the authorities say can not work.

Densing said the projected losses due to the closure are pushing the government to fast-track the island's rehabilitation, even as Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said 6 months may not be enough for Boracay's full recovery.

"We are a bit depressed right now in the industry", he said.

Philippine Airlines said it supported the government's decision.

Boracay drew 2 million tourists in 2017.

Passengers of the affected Kalibo and Caticlan flights have the option to rebook, reroute or refund with penalties and charges waived.

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The abrupt presidential order to close Boracay to tourism for six months from April 26, aimed at rescuing the once idyllic island from ruin, was issued Wednesday.

"The impact of Boracay closure on our operation is nearly insignificant compared to its effect on our guests, especially those who have saved up their money to be able travel this summer, which is why our focus is on assisting them and providing them with flexible options so as not to disrupt their holiday plans", Comendador added.

He told reporters the island is a "cesspool" and complained that the water is "smelly".

Discovery World Corp, which operates an 88-room resort in Boracay, said Thursday that the closure would have a significant impact on its financial health, citing the resort's large contribution to revenue. The company's shares dropped as much as 7.5% today.

"Boracay is a national treasure", PAL President Jaime J. Bautista said in a statement.

Officials said a "soft opening" of the island may be possible in three to four months. "He will not let any resort owner benefit from any sort of a calamity fund", Roque said.

Some large operators welcomed the closure, saying it would create a more sustainable tourism environment, and make it easier to complete ongoing construction work.

Ejercito also urged the government to provide alternative livelihood for workers who will be displaced by the Boracay closure.

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

  • Sonia Alvarado