April 5 (UPI) — Philippine officials will shut down the popular tourist island of Boracay for six months, to clean up sewage that’s leaked into the ocean because of infrastructure problems.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the island will be a “total closure” for tourism beginning April 26.
The decision to close the island has been speculated since February, when Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte complained about the state of the island and accused managers of turning it into a “cesspool.”
A survey of the island’s sewerage facilities found 85 percent of properties have no discharge permit and were presumed to be draining waste water directly into the sea.
Boracay, located about 200 miles south of Manila, is regarded one of the region’s top vacation destinations.
Business owners are upset the burden to upgrade falls on them, saying past pleas for government help in the matter, which they say has been aided by unfinished infrastructure, were unsuccessful.
Government officials in the coming months will inspect establishments for environmental compliance and upgrade of sewage and drainage systems.
Interior chief Epimaco Densing is pushing for a shorter closure.
“We have to fast track everything. The only way to be able to do this is to ask everybody, all the stakeholders, to be part of the whole rehabilitation process,” Densing said. “We have been receiving volunteers outside Boracay that they want to go into the island and help in the rehab process. So if everybody can come into the picture, we can cut the process by at least two months.”
Densing said the government also is investigating whether any government officials are responsible for the situation.
Officials also said illegal structures located in forest lands and wet lands will be dismantled, protected areas will be rehabilitated and the island’s transportation system will be improved.
Officials are also studying the island’s carrying capacity to regulate access and future construction.