WORLD-renowned Boracay island opened its doors to visitors on Friday, October 26, six months after it closed for rehabilitation.
President Rodrigo Duterte previously called the hot spot a “cesspool” due to overcrowding and the disregard for environmental safety and standards. Given the circumstances at the time, he ordered that the island be shut down in April.
During the past six months, the famed destination was only accessible to residents and employees of the businesses on the island.
Despite the official opening on Friday, the rehabilitation efforts on the island will be ongoing until the end of 2019, according to the Philippine government. It has implemented a “no compliance, no opening” policy for establishments to prevent the island from reverting back to its “old” state.
Visitors to the island are expected to stay at one of the accredited hotels and resorts, which comply with the requirements and regulations of the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
On Friday, 157 resorts and hotels with 7,308 rooms have been allowed to operate, according to ABS-CBN News. Prior to the closure, there were 525 hotels in the island with over 14,000 rooms. Some businesses remain closed, pending the issuance of permits from the inter-agency task force.
Travel around Boracay still remains a challenge, as some streets are still closed for road widening work, as of this writing. Only a part of the Boracay Circumferential Road – from Cagban Port to Hue Hotel – was open on Friday.
Currently, new environment-friendly transportation methods, like e-trikes and solar-powered shuttles, will be available to reduce traffic and pollution.
According to the rules and guidelines, only 19,215 tourists will be allowed on the island at any given time. Officials said they would limit entry, with around 6,400 allowed to enter per day, assuming they would stay for at least three days.
Tourists and residents on the island are refrained from water activities, dining by the beach, smoking and consuming alcohol along White Beach, and littering, among other rules. Those who violate the Anti-Littering Ordinance could face a fine or imprisonment.
“Let us treat the island as our home. Keep it clean and pristine. Don’t drink alcohol or smoke in the beach, don’t litter,” DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said in a message prior to the opening.
The DOT has requested that airlines reduce the number of flights to Kalibo and Caticlan in the Aklan province, which is below the average flight frequency prior to the island’s closure, as reported by Rappler.
The Ombudsman this week suspended Cicero Cawaling from his post as mayor of Malay, Aklan for six months, due to the circumstances of the island under his leadership, including allowing businesses to operate without permits in addition to the disregard for the environment.
LaBoracay, the annual Labor Day party, and other beachfront parties are to be no longer accommodated. The vibrant nightlife was a dominant source of revenue for most local businesses.
Foreign tourist arrivals in the Philippines reached 4.84 million in September, despite the island’s rehabilitation. Officials are optimistic that the year-end target of 7.5 million will still be met even with Boracay’s shutdown. Last year, the island received 2 million visitors.