Saturday, 26 May, 2018

Dumped sewage forces closure of 'cesspool' Philippines holiday island

Dumped sewage forces closure of 'cesspool' Philippines holiday island Dumped sewage forces closure of 'cesspool' Philippines holiday island
Steven Clarke | 06 April, 2018, 06:59

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday approved the closure of the country's most famous tourist island, Boracay, for six months from April 26, his spokesman said, paving the way for a major cleanup of what he had described as a "sewer pool".

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.

A survey of the island's sewerage facilities found 85 percent of properties have no discharge permit and were presumed to be draining waste water directly into the sea.

He said there were recommendations to delay the closure until the lean season but the idea was shut down after the Departments of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Tourism (DOT) explained that the pollution level in the island makes it urgent to "move the date (of closure) earlier".

Boracay is a top destination for local and foreign tourists and attracted almost two million visitors and over a billion dollars in revenue in 2017, Reuters reported.

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

Philippine Airlines said it will scale down its services to Caticlan and Kalibo airports, the gateways to Boracay, for six months from April following the government's decision.

"I hope that this is part of the Department of Tourism's (DOT) recovery plan for Boracay".

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Airlines offer around 1.2 million seats from Boracay's Caticlan airport annually, almost three-quarters from the capital Manila, data from Aviation Consultants show.

"It's good for us because it means a better Boracay after six months", said Monica Salomon, president of Global Estate, a subsidiary of Megaworld Corp, which is behind the 140-hectare Boracay Newcoast project.

Officials are also studying the island's carrying capacity to regulate access and future construction.

Discovery World, which operates an 88-room resort on Boracay, told Reuters the closure will have an impact on the resort's large revenue.

He added that the area has seen "unlimited" development because "local government units and the national government agencies did not do their job of enforcing rules on land use, environmental impact assessment".

The island can only sustain 30,000 people but teems with 70,000 at any time, including 50,000 residents and daily arrivals of about 20,000 tourists, Alegre said.

Wastewater management is expected to be the priority, after inspections discovered businesses releasing untreated sewage into the sea.

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