MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay, a world-famous tourist destination, for 6 months, starting on April 26.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told this to reporters on Wednesday, April 4, as a Cabinet meeting was ongoing.
Duterte made his decision during the meeting.
The recommendation to close Boracay from tourists for 6 months – or until October – came from the Department of the Interior and Local Government. The Department of Tourism and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had also called for a "total" closure, according to Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
It was the suggestion of these 3 departments that finally got Duterte's nod.
"DENR/DOT/DILG proposal approved after an exhaustive discussion," Guevarra told Rappler.
Duterte wants funds devoted to assisting residents in Boracay whose livelihood would be affected by the closure.
"Calamity funds will be activated to tide affected workers over," said Guevarra.
What does Boracay's "closure" actually mean on the ground?
Guevarra had previously said this could mean non-residents would be physically barred from entering the island.
Upon Boracay's closure, Duterte said during the meeting that there should be "validation" of which among the establishments in the island are complying with environmental rules and regulations.
It is not clear, however, how these establishments would be treated differently from those found violating environmental policies.
But the Department of Trade and Industry had suggested implementing the closure in phases.
Financial advisers in the Cabinet had also been concerned about the timing of the closure. April 26 is in the middle of the summer season, the busiest time of the year for Boracay.
But from June to August, tourism arrivals wind down because of the rainy season. This low season would thus be covered by the 6-month closure period.
Duterte announced his intention to "close" Boracay last February 10, angered by environmental violations by commercial establishments that he thinks turned the popular tourist destination into a "cesspool."
Boracay stakeholders had said that closing the island for a year would take away the jobs of 36,000 people and would mean foregone revenues of P56 billion.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.