Philippine Daily Inquirer

TOTAL CLOSURE OF BORACAY FOR 60 DAYS PUSHED

- —CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO

BORACAY, AKLAN— A 60-day total closure of business establishm­ents on this resort island is being pushed by Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, who both want it to take place during the rainy season when tourist arrivals are low.

Teo and Año were pressing Environmen­t Secretary Roy Cimatu as of press time to agree to their recommenda­tion.

The three officials have been ordered by President Duterte to rehabilita­te Boracay in six months.

Mr. Duterte has warned that the island, which he calls a “cesspool,” faces closure should its environmen­tal problems remain unsolved in six months.

Teo, Año and Cimatu arrived here ahead of Friday’s Senate inquiry into the problems of the world-famous island.

June 1 to July 1

Teo told reporters that she and Año had talked about closing down business establishm­ents from June 1 to July 31.

“It’s total closure … because we have to repair the roads, drainage. And the demolition [of structures within the 30-meter easement zone] might be dangerous to tourists,” Teo said.

Impact on business

She said hotels and resorts could use the downtime to upgrade their respective structures.

Teo said some business establishm­ents had already start- ed to make improvemen­ts, such as connecting their drainage pipes to the Boracay sewerage system.

Asked to comment on the adverse impact of the island’s closure on business, she said this was for the best of Boracay. “Somehow, we have to bite the bullet.”

She said the island’s total closure to tourists during the rainy season was the proper time because of low visitor arrivals.

The tourism secretary said there was no problem with those wanting to visit Boracay this summer.

Other destinatio­ns

“But we would start telling the establishm­ents to rebook [tourists during the rainy season] to other places because we would start the rehabilita­tion of Boracay,” Teo said.

She said tourists could be diverted to other travel destinatio­ns in the country, such as Cebu, Bohol, Masbate, Iloilo, Bacolod, Palawan, Siargao, Davao and Camiguin.

“This is not forever. This is to fix Boracay. Eventually, they can go back. I tell you it will triple tourism in Boracay after this,” Teo said.

She said a tourism plan would be prepared after the completion of the island’s rehabilita­tion.

Año, for his part, told reporters that the closure would allow the government to do what it needed to do.

“You are going to weigh income and safety. If Boracay becomes safe, then its good for developmen­t and for income generation,” Año said in a separate interview with reporters.

Despite the controvers­y generated by Mr. Duterte’s threat to shut down Boracay, tourists did not shun the resort island, according to Teo.

She said tourist arrivals were up, probably because the visitors were curious about the President’s statements and wanted to find out for themselves if these were true.

“Second, tourists wanted to visit Boracay while it is still open … So [tourists] started coming in,” she said.

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Wanda Teo

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