AKLAN, Philippines – A little over a month into its closure, the Philippines’ top tourist destination Boracay is left with establishments fenced with wire or marked with “closed” signs.
Tourists have been banned from entering the island since April 26, as the government began rehabilitation efforts. President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the 6-month shutdown, calling Boracay a “cesspool.” (READ: INSIDE STORY: How Duterte decided on Boracay closure)
Once packed with guests, Boracay’s powdery white shores are now almost empty. Locals said the island looks like how it was 20 years ago. (WATCH: What Boracay looks like after it was closed down)
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had ruled that swimming is only allowed for residents in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary grotto at Station 1. (LIST: New Boracay rules during 6-month closure)
Popular shops closed
With tourists gone, most establishments were forced to temporarily close, including the famous D’Mall shops where tourists could buy swimwear and souvenirs.
D’Mall Avenue, which used to be bustling with shoppers, is now left with clearing works along the alley.
Even popular food and beverage chains such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Yellow Cab, and Army Navy took a hit from the closure.
Major resorts also shut down. According to remaining workers, all Hennan hotels in the island stopped operations.
Some still open
Despite the absence of tourists, however, some establishments are still operating for those who remain in Boracay.
Business owner Boyet Sacdalan said he has gotten used to the empty beach and empty shops.
“In my bar, we don’t have customers anymore. Sometimes, we have one or two per night. If it’s a payday, the numbers rise to 6 or 8,” he told Rappler.
“We’re only operating for our employees because I don’t want them to see that I’m giving up. But we’re operating at a loss.”
Sacdalan had to shorten operating hours and retain only less than 50 employees from almost 300. He said he is hoping that Boracay reopens in less than 6 months.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu had said that the island may reopen sooner than originally scheduled, thanks to the help of the military in fast-tracking rehabilitation efforts.
“We’re really hoping that the island opens within the target, even if it’s a partial reopening. Right now, businesses are dead. Just don’t tell us it’s going to extend more than 6 months,” Sacdalan said. – Rappler.com