THE island paradise of Boracay will reopen in October after a long hiatus — but tourists in the holiday hotspot might be in for a major disappointment.
Boracay, which was voted the world’s best island just two years ago and was the top tourist attraction in the Philippines, was sensationally shut down by President Rodrigo Duterte in April, throwing holiday and weddings plans into chaos.
At the time, Mr Duterte said the once-idyllic island had become a “cesspool” that “smelled of sh*t” due to sewerage problems, and would be shut down for six months for a much-needed clean-up and rehabilitation. Police and heavily armed soldiers were dramatically dispatched to the island to turn tourists away.
Now the island is almost ready to welcome back tourists on October 26 — but they can expect from major changes.
Boracay will reopen to tourists in October, with some conditions. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied
The first major blow is Boracay’s famous beach parties will be banned.
“It won’t be like a party place anymore,” tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“We want it to be more as it is, we want it to be more peaceful. We want to promote sustainable tourism.”
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu echoed her warning.
“People can still party within establishments, but not on the beach,” he said.
Mr Cimatu said the government was looking into “safer alternatives” for fire dancing displays traditionally held on the beach.
Beach parties will be a thing of the past on Boracay.Source:Supplied
The number of visitors who can be in Boracay at one time may also be capped, with Ms Romulo-Puyat to meet with government departments to discuss visitor limits.
Previously, according to government data, some 45,000 tourists visited Boracay every day.
A curfew may also be imposed, ABS-CBN News reported.
And disposable plastic will be banned, meaning no more single-use plastic bottles, cups, bags or eating utensils.
Tourists will be encouraged to bring reusable or non-plastic items with them during their stay.
A volunteer collects plastic bottles at a Boracay dump site on April 25, a day before Boracay was closed. Picture: AFP/Noel CelisSource:AFP
The new council ordinance bans the use of single-use plastic items by hotels, resorts and restaurants, including shampoo, conditioner and body wash containers, disposable toothbrushes and combs, and styrofoam packets.
The plastic items had been blamed for clogging drainage systems and contributing to Boracay’s environmental crisis.
Since the island was shuttered on April 26 for cleaning, officials discovered 21 illegal sewer pipes discharging water along Boracay’s famous beachfront.
Officials also demolished structures breaching a 30m easement zone.
Police officers take part in security measures on Boracay before the island was shut down. Picture: AFP/Noel CelisSource:AFP
The island will see a soft reopening to visitors from the local region on October 15 before the official reopening to domestic and international tourists on October 26.
But with just weeks to go, not everything is going to plan.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose Clemente told local media this week no bookings have been accepted as the island wasn’t ready.
“We have not yet accepted bookings until now because rehabilitation is just 50 per cent,” he told Philippines’ The Star.
“It might be useless to go there because a lot of work is still ongoing.”
Mr Clemente said the current condition of the island was probably more fitting for local tourists rather than international visitors and he “wouldn’t want to recommend it”.
“If they (tourists) insist on visiting Boracay, just don’t expect a fully restored Boracay as it is still a work in progress,” he said.
Workers work on the drainage system in Boracay’s business centre. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
The six-month shutdown of Boracay in April scuppered the holiday plans of hundreds of thousands of tourists and forced hotels, restaurants and wedding planners to rush to cancel bookings, some made years in advance.
The president blamed local businesses for contributing to the sewerage problems by dumping untreated waste directly into Boracay’s previously pristine waters.
“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smell of what? Sh*t. Because it all comes out in Boracay,” Mr Duterte said in February.
The government said it was prepared to suffer a blow to tourism by closing Boracay for a massive clean-up that included improvements to roads, sewerage treatment and waste disposal.
“We have to swallow the bitter pill if we wish to sustain and protect the island of Boracay,” assistant secretary for tourism Frederick Alegre said ahead of the shutdown.
“It is a temporary setback but we will recover the glory days of Boracay.”
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