Displaced Boracay workers head home, look for other jobs as Philippines’ tourist island shuts down

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Cook Marlon Laguna, left, sits outside their closed beachfront restaurant as country’s most famous beach resort island of Boracay, in central Aklan province, Philippines, closes for up to six months for rehabilitation. (AP)
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A worker displaced by Boracay’s temporary closure receives financial assistance from the government as they prepare to leave the island following its temporary closure on Thursday, April 26. (AP)
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A closed sign hangs on the window of a beachfront shop as the Philippine government implements the temporary closure of the country’s most famous beach resort island of Boracay. (AP)
Updated 26 April 2018

Displaced Boracay workers head home, look for other jobs as Philippines’ tourist island shuts down

BORACAY, Philippines: The cooks, hotel workers and other Filipinos who served tourists at the country’s most popular beach headed home and started looking for other work Thursday as police guarded the empty beach on the first day of a shutdown intended to let Boracay’s waters recover from overcrowding and development.
Police on the empty, white-sand beach turned away tourists trying to take a dip in the turquoise waters, and once-busy stores and restaurants stood closed.
“It’s painful for us to lose our jobs and it’s so sudden,” said canteen cook Marlon Laguna, 47, outside the closed beachfront restaurant. “Even though I don’t have my own family, I support my siblings ... We cannot do anything but to accept it.”
The island will be shut to visitors for up to six months while sewage containment and other work is done to clean up the waters President Rodrigo Duterte had called a cesspool.
The work was already underway Thursday. Police and residents were collecting seaweed in a cleanup drive on the beachfront, pipes were being laid, and construction had begun to widen the island’s main road. Some roadside structures were being demolished to make way.
Workers now out of jobs said they will look for other work to ride out the time the island is shut to tourists.
About 17,000 are employed in Boracay’s tourist establishments, and 10,000 to 12,000 others benefit from the bustling tourism business.
Displaced workers flocked to the Department of Social welfare operation center to get travel allowance for them to go home to their provinces.
“I am thankful that the government gave us travel allowance, even if we do not have a job anymore,” said construction worker Jomar Incierto, 27, who was among those receiving the cash assistance.
More than 2 million tourists visited Boracay last year, generating about 56 billion pesos ($1 billion) in revenue. But the influx, neglected infrastructure and growth of resort establishments and poor settlements have threatened to turn Boracay into a “dead island” in less than a decade, according to a government study. Settlers who’ve built illegal structures in forests and wetlands have added to the problems.
Less than half the establishments are connected to the island’s main sewage treatment plant, with many of the rest possibly maintaining crude septic tanks and others discharging their waste directly into the sea, said Frederick Alegre, assistant secretary at the Department of Tourism.
Parts of the island could re-open earlier than six months if sewage treatment systems could be built earlier and beach resorts comply with environmental regulations, he said.

Philippines’ Boracay island reopens after 6-month cleanup

Updated 16 October 2018

Philippines’ Boracay island reopens after 6-month cleanup

  • Public opening is set on Oct. 26
  • The cleanup drive took six months, but officials estimated two years for full rehabilitation

DUBAI: Boracay, the Philippines’ world-famous island resort, has reopened for a test run after it was temporarily closed for a cleanup operation led by the Philippine government, CNN reported.

The test run involved a small group of tourists, who were invited to try the newly improved facilities of the resort off the main island of Aklan.

One of the main improvements done in the island was its sewerage system, which Philippine Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu confirmed as “100 percent” complete.

But while the beaches were signed off as safe for recreational activities, officials said that full rehabilitation could still take up to two years.

The cleanup, which lasted six months, started in April after Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte called the area a “cesspool” because of unclean waters.

Reforms have already taken place in the 6-month duration of the rehabilitation work, and officials have greenlighted a public opening on Oct. 26.

New rules

The government has set firmer regulations to maintain Boracay, including limiting the number of tourists allowed to stay on the island.

According to local media, only 19,000 tourists will be able to enter the island on the condition they present hotel reservation slips. Further, availability of hotel rooms will also be reduced to between 6,000 and 9,000 from a previous 12,000.

Other rules have been announced such as the temporary suspension of all water activities, prohibition of beachside dining, banning of souvenir shops and hawkers, among others.

Officials vowed to implement these rules as the island opens for tourists.