MANILA Senate President Aquilino Koko Pimentel III on Wednesday declared his support for the plan of Interior Department Officer-In-Charge Eduardo AAo and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo to temporarily close Boracay Island to tourists, saying it is the logical step to take in restoring the island's natural beauty.
AAo and Teo, together with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, were earlier ordered by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to rehabilitate the world-famous island within six months.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Tourism have proposed to close down the island from June 1 to July 31.
It is only logical to close Boracay for renovations, so to speak. We must carefully assess the damage to the local environment and take the necessary steps for cleanup. The process is more easily done and more effective if there are no tourists around, Pimentel said.
Pimentel said he understands the sentiments of stakeholders who would be affected by the shutdown but stressed that the closure is necessary in restoring the island's natural resources.
He also pointed out that closing tourist destinations to preserve them is nothing new, citing the temporary closure of Thailand's Koh Tachai Island in May 2016 for similar reasons.
The Thai government closed the island to visitors in an attempt to ease the negative effects of tourism on its once-pristine beaches and surrounding coral reefs before the damage is beyond repair."
Koh Tachai Island was closed for five months, which allowed for the rehabilitation of the environment both on the island and in the sea.
I understand the difficulties of closing the island for two months, but it is only temporary. It will be good in the long run for all stakeholders, including the tourists who are there for the natural beauty of the island, Pimentel said.
Describing Boracay as a cesspool, Duterte threatened to close the popular tourist destination if the island's environmental issues are not resolved within six months.
He warned that if the island's sewerage and sanitation issues are not addressed, "there will be a time that no more foreigners will go there.
The Senate opened an inquiry Friday to investigate these environmental concerns.
Source: Philippine News Agency