Philippines eyes limiting Boracay tourists after 6-month closure

Paterno Esmaquel II
Philippines eyes limiting Boracay tourists after 6-month closure
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo says tourists who would be bumped off by a daily cap can stay in nearby Caticlan while waiting for slots in Boracay

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government said on Wednesday, April 11, that it is considering to limit the number of Boracay tourists once the world-famous beach reopens after 6 months.  

“Yes,” said Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo in an interview on ANC’s Headstart, when asked by anchor Karen Davila if the Philippine government is considering a daily cap on Boracay’s tourists.

Teo cited Palawan’s Underground River, which allows a limited number of tourists. 

“Remember in the Underground River, limited lang ang pupunta sa lugar na ‘yun. I think that will be the case with Boracay. So ‘pag puno na ‘yan, then you have to book on the next day. You have to wait. Anyway there’s Caticlan. They can stay in Caticlan, and then when medyo lumabas na ‘yung tourism, then they can go in,” Teo said.

(Remember in the Underground River, there’s a limited number of people going there. I think that will be the case with Boracay. So when it’s full, then you have to book on the next day. You have to wait. Anyway there’s Caticlan. They can stay in Caticlan, and then when the tourism in Boracay wanes, then they can go in.)

While admitting he has no master plan for the island, President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered a 6-month closure of Boracay supposedly to rehabilitate what he called a “cesspool.” Boracay will be closed to tourists starting April 26.

Tourist cap amid mega projects

The planned tourist cap comes as developers pursue mega projects in Boracay.

These mega projects include:

  • a 1,001-room beachfront hotel, a joint project by DoubleDragon subsidiary Hotel of Asia, as well as Newcoast South Beach Incorporated
  • a new casino by the Andrew Tan-led Alliance Global in the 559-room Savoy Hotel
  • a $500-million integrated resort and casino by Galaxy Entertainment, whose chairman Lui Che Woo paid a courtesy call on Duterte in December 2017 

Experts have criticized Duterte’s intentions for closing Boracay to tourists. 

In a Thought Leaders piece for Rappler, economist JC Punongbayan pointed out, for one, “If Duterte were really concerned about congestion and excessive commercial activity in Boracay, why did he just allow the construction of a new megacasino and megahotel there?” 

Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the Philippine government is still determining the “carrying capacity” of Boracay, or the maximum number of people it can support without compromising its resources. 

Leones said the government will release the study on Boracay’s carrying capacity by the end of April.

Teo said Boracay’s carrying capacity in 2008 was 25,000, including workers there. “Now it’s 75,000. Hindi naman lumalaki ang Boracay (And Boracay is not getting any bigger),” she said. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.