Boracay, Idyllic Philippines Resort Island, Is Closed to Tourists

Boracay, Idyllic Philippines Resort Island, Is Closed to Tourists


Resort owners say the government promised a system that would treat waste and runoff, and pump it far out to sea. What they got instead, they say, was an inadequate treatment system, with many properties illegally tapped into it, that dumps wastewater just off the island’s eastern shore, at Bulabog Beach, an area famed for its wind- and kite-surfing.

Video of black water gushing out of a pipe there, while a kite surfer passed in the background, drew widespread attention this year. Mr. Duterte seized on it to begin a series of blistering verbal attacks on development on Boracay.

Saying the water “smells,” and employing other, more colorful words, Mr. Duterte ordered officials in the environment, tourism and interior departments to undertake a cleanup. So far, the government has not signaled what it will do to fix the problem, or when.

“We want the government to help us,” said Ms. Graf, who operates the Boracay Beach Resort on the western side of the island. But closing the island, she said, “is another matter altogether. We don’t want that.”

“Closure means the end of jobs,” she said, asking how local workers were “going to eat in the next six months.” She predicted that it would have ripple effects across the entire Philippine economy.

“You close us down, and we will likely not recover from it,” she added. “Tourism in Asia is very competitive.”

Boracay’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has asked Mr. Duterte to reconsider, arguing that not all businesses are violators, and that those found to be polluting should instead be cut off from the water supply.

The proposed casino site is on the less developed, eastern side of the island, and to make way for the project, local landowners say they were forced to sell their property at below-market prices. Some of the houses there have already been torn down, and a “no trespassing” sign warns away visitors.



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