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Nearly six months ago, the Philippine government closed one of the world’s most famous islands, Boracay. This week — after an extensive effort to clean and restore the isle that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte deemed a “cesspool” — Boracay entered a 10-day dry run, during which only Filipino tourists will be permitted, with priority given to local residents.
The island will officially open to all tourists on Oct. 26, though even that’s considered a soft opening.
“We want to invite the airlines [and] the tour operators so that they can see what Boracay is before they actually promote it, and before the soft opening,” tourism secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat told CNN Philippines.
Puyat also noted that though the beaches are clean, rehabilitation work is still being done to restore the island. Since April, a task force has been working to remove garbage, to redirect sewage pipes that drained into the sea, to repair roads and to implement sustainable practices at hotels, shops and spas.
Hotels that are found non-compliant will be “dealt with full force of law,” the Department of Transportation said in a statement published on Oct. 13. At last count, fewer than 70 properties had been given permission to accept reservations and promote inventory. Among them: the Best Western Boracay Tropics and Boracay Mandarin Island Hotel.
“When we relaunch Boracay, it [will] be a better destination, more environment-friendly…” said the Philippines’ undersecretary for tourism development, Benito Bengzon Jr., in a statement.
“More important than anything else,” Bengzon said, “we [must] avoid the problems that led to its closure in the first place.”
According to the Philippine news website, Rappler, there will be strict new rules enforced on Boracay. Among them: no more beach parties. The number of tourists permitted on the island each day will be capped, single-use plastics (think: plastic straws and mini hotel shampoo bottles) will be banned, sandcastle-making will be “regulated” and a ban on beach smoking will be “strictly enforced.”
It may no longer be possible to get a beach massage either, and diving and other activities remain suspended while the marine ecosystem recovers from years of overtourism. Travelers may also find that flights to Godofredo P. Ramos, or Caticlan Airport (MPH) and Kalibo International Airport (KLO) are limited in the future. Both are located in the Aklan province.
In the following months, travelers can expect to see a massive advertising campaign announcing the reopening of Boracay, while also promoting alternative destinations. Travelers should still be thoughtful about visiting less-heavily touristed islands such as Pamalican (home to the Amanpulo resort), Busuanga and Bohol Island.
Feature photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images.
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