Philippine island of Boracay closing 6 months due to sewage leak

Boracay closure: Airlines cut back flights to Philippine holiday hotspot

The Philippines is closing its best-known holiday island Boracay to tourists for up to six months over concerns that the once idyllic white-sand resort has become a "cesspool" tainted by dumped sewage, authorities said on Thursday.

Duterte approved the total shutdown of Boracay as a tourist destination starting April 26 in a cabinet meeting Wednesday night after extensive discussions of its impact, including ways to help about 17,000 workers who may be displaced, tourism undersecretary Frederick Alegre said Thursday.

President Duterte had previously described the island as a "cesspool", and was concerned the island could be turned into a "fishpond or a sewer pool" if its environmental needs weren't addressed.

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.

Domestic airlines offered customers full refunds or flights elsewhere, but said they would still operate a limited number of flights to Boracay's gateways, Caticlan and Kalibo, to serve residents, which number about 50,000.

The island is home to around 500 tourism-related businesses, which drew in annual revenue of $1.07bn (£760m) a year ago.

Discovery World Corp, which operates a lavish 88-room resort in Boracay, said the closure would have a significant impact on its financial health, citing the resort's large contribution to revenue.

"Boracay is a national treasure", PAL President Jaime J. Bautista said in a statement. "In the long-term, a safe and revitalized Boracay will benefit all stakeholders in the travel and tourism sectors, and the Filipino people as a whole".

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced Duterte's decision via Twitter without giving further details.

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

PAL has adjusted its operations in support of the government's decision to temporarily close or limit access to Boracay for urgent major environmental rehabilitation of the island.

"Boracay will be relaunched".

Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said emergency calamity funds would be used to help workers at tourist establishments affected by Boracay's temporary closure.

Densing warned the local government officials of Malay in Aklan of possible cases if they issued local permits without clearance from the DENR.

Ramon Ang, president and chief operating officer of San Miguel Corp.

Boracay, on the northern tip of central Panay island, is a top destination for local and foreign tourists and its sugary white sand, lively night scene and abundant water sports attracted almost 2 million visitors previous year. But its appeal has been overshadowed lately by inadequate sewage treatment and pollution.

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