They outnumber tourists! Over 15,000 workers to be booted out of Boracay

Ralf Rivas

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Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu says workers should live in mainland Aklan to decongest the world-famous island Boracay

LIMITS. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu says the government will limit the number of workers in Boracay. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking for ways to persuade over 15,000 workers to move out of Boracay, as the agency deemed that their number exceeded the island’s carrying capacity.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu announced on Wednesday, September 12, that they want workers to live in mainland Aklan to decongest Boracay.

“We will look for a place, an area that is accessible [and] private investors to put up dormitory for workers to stay,” Cimatu said in a mix of English and Filipino during the sidelines of the agency’s budget briefing at the Senate. 

Boracay was closed for rehabilitation last April 26 and is set to reopen on October 26.

Carrying capacity

The agency’s commissioned study found that Boracay can accommodate a total of 54,945 people a day. There should only be 19,215 tourists, or a total of 35,730 residents and tourists.

The study revealed that the island needs to be decongested by some 15,836 people.

The average number of tourists was only at 18,255, well below the carrying capacity limit.

The study stated that there are 16, 526 residents and 13,605 migrant workers.

Cimatu said that they need to reduce stay-in workers, which is currently at 22,395.

“We will slowly find a way to look for a solution to bring them (workers) outside of Boracay to the mainland,” Cimatu said.

Living arrangements

The environment chief said that they are looking into the possibility of hotels and establishments to subsidize the living and transport expenses of their workers.

The agency has also started to create a provision for another port exclusively for the use of workers and permanent residents.

“There will be two piers in Caticlan: a pier for tourists and a pier for workers and permanent residents. When they arrive at the mainland, there will also be two, so that ports will not be clogged,” Cimatu said in a mix of English and Filipino.

They are also looking into the possibility of hotels to house their own workers. The agency found that the occupancy rate of hotels was just around 60% to 70%, where the unused rooms can be used by workers.

The Department of Tourism earlier reported that tourist arrivals from January to June of 2018 rose by 10.4%, compared to the 3.3 million recorded in the same period in 2017.

Despite the closure of the world-famous destination, tourism officials are confident that the yearend target of 7.5 million tourists will be met. (IN NUMBERS: Foreign visitors up by 10% despite Boracay closure) –


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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.