Philippines: Duterte closes Boracay to tourism over sewage problems

April 26 (UPI) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of calamity in Boracay, a popular tourist destination suffering from sewage problems.

Duterte ushered in a six-month shutdown of tourism on the island to allow for the cleanup of sewage that’s leaked into the ocean because of infrastructure problems.

“The continuous rise of tourist arrivals, the insufficient sewer and waste management system, and environmental violations of establishments aggravate the environmental degradation and destroy the ecological balance of the Island of Boracay, resulting in major damage to property and natural resources, as well as the disruption of the normal way of life of the people therein,” Duterte’s proclamation read.

“It is necessary to implement urgent measures to address the abovementioned human-induced hazards, to protect and promote the health and well-being of its residents, workers, and tourists, and to rehabilitate the Island in order to ensure the sustainability of the area and prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem.”

The island will be closed starting Thursday through Oct. 25.

An investigation into Boracay, an island which Duterte has described as a “cesspool,” showed the local establishments were not properly disposing waste.

According to the probe, 14 out of 51 establishments near Boracay’s shores are compliant with the country’s Clean Water Act and the natural habitats of wildlife have been destroyed.

A survey of the island’s sewage facilities found that 85 percent of properties have no discharge permit and were presumed to be draining the waste directly into the ocean.

Boracay, located about 200 miles south of Manila, is regarded one of the region’s top vacation destinations.

Duterte has directed the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines “to act with restraint and within the bounds of the law” to enforce the proclamation.

Special Assistant to the President, Christopher Go, said he hoped residents and business owners in Boracay would cooperate with government officials.

“It is my hope that you will cooperate with the government as we undertake efforts to make the Island of Boracay a more beautiful and sustainable tourist destination,” Go said.