The island known for beach parties and booze gets an image change
After six months of closure for the much-needed rehabilitation, Boracay, the Philippines’ crown jewel resort island, is finally open to tourists who can now enjoy its powdery white beaches, picture perfect sunsets, crystal blue waters, great accommodations and fun activities.
The popular tourist destination was ordered closed by President Rodrigo Duterte in April in order to strictly enforce its cleanup and rehabilitation after years of damage inflicted by unrestrained mass tourism. Before its closure, President Duterte described the popular island resort as a “cesspool” as sewage from establishments and residences that don’t go to treatment plants has caused pollution to its waters to reach extreme levels.
President Durterte directed Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to fix the environmental issues in the island. About 400 hotels and restaurants were ordered closed for violating local environmental laws, while three casinos have been permanently shut down. Establishments built within the 30-meter shoreline easement were also demolished.
Apart from cleanup of the white beach, DENR focused on fixing pipe networks, roads, sewage treatment plants in the island.
According to Cimatu, the clearing operations have paved the way for the rehabilitation and restoration of the natural functions of the island’s ecosystems, especially for clean water supply, flood control, and wildlife habitat.
DENR’s efforts have indicated positive results. During its partial reopening, Cimatu has officially declared that Boracay as no longer a “cesspool.”
“We declare now that Boracay Island is no longer a cesspool,” Cimatu told the Aklanons during the Salubungan event to mark the first day of the dry run for the island’s reopening for tourism.
The waters of Boracay, particularly at the White Beach, is safe for swimming and within the standards.
Based on the recent water quality monitoring of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), it showed that coliform level at the White Beach is just within three MPN (most probable number) per 100 millimeters. The standard is 100 MPN.
Cimatu said the Boracay Interagency Task Force for Rehabilitation will also continue to work on making other areas on the island safe for swimming, particularly on Bulabog area.
Boracay’s reopening will only allow fewer hotels and restaurants to start operations, put a cap on the number of visitors, and implement littering rules and anti-beach drinking rules aimed at controlling Boracay’s party-hard reputation.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she hopes the “new” Boracay would serve as model for other island tourist destinations to follow. The rehabilitated island will be the start of a "culture of sustainable tourism" in the Philippines.
Romulo-Puyat also reiterated that tourists will only be allowed to book on compliant establishments.
As of Oct. 23, the DOT has accredited 116 hotels and resorts in Boracay as these establishments have already complied with government rules and regulations.
As of Friday, there are a total of 5,677 rooms that will be available to tourists who will visit the island starting Oct. 26.
The DOT reminded the public that only the accommodation establishments that are compliant with the requirements of the DENR, the DILG, and accredited by the DOT are allowed to accept booking reservations and operate from Oct. 26.
To ensure the island won’t go over capacity, flights to Boracay has also been limited. Only 6,405 tourists are allowed to enter Boracay for each day, according to Puyat. The number of tourists would also be allowed to peak at 19,200 at any given time, with the government aiming to enforce that number by controlling the number of available hotel rooms.
Before its closure, the small island of Boracay with a mere 1,000 hectare land size was bursting beyond capacity, carrying up to 40,000 tourists during peak times and you can just imagine the mountain of trash left behind by these tourists—plus their effect on island’s sewer system.
Some of the activities and sights that will no longer be seen in the “new” Boracay include fire eaters, masseuses, vendors, stray dogs, bonfires and even the builders of its famous photo-op sandcastles.
Water activities such as paraw or sailboats and island hopping will only be temporarily suspended on the first two weeks of the reopening—to give way for the marine biodiversity assessment as well as crafting regulations for them, according to DENR. The water sports activities on the island will eventually be “resumed on stages.” DENR is also eyeing to put up a common terminal for water sports activities.
For the island’s reopening, more than 400 police personnel will be permanently deployed in Boracay, according to Director-General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP). He said an increase in the number of police officers in the island from 200 is part of the restructuring of the police force in Malay.
Five substations were also established in different areas in Boracay and in Caticlan to ensure the safety of island residents and tourists. Two brand new vehicles will also be turned over to Boracay police, he added.
Starting Oct. 26, eight electronic jeepneys (e-jeeps) will be offering free rides around Boracay. The e-jeeps are provided by Grab Philippines as an environment-friendly alternative for the diesel-powered tricycles that ply the island. From an initial four units of e-jeeps, the Grab will be adding four units of e-jeeps for the island.
Aside from e-jeepneys, 200 electric tricycles will also be donated by the Department of Energy (DOE) for those who will be displaced with the total phaseout of diesel-powered tricycles on the island.
The deployment of modern jeepneys and e-trikes are part of a modern and environment-friendly transport system in Boracay that will be implemented by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.