The real status of Boracay – straight from the office of the president

President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte, Republic of the Philippines

After president Duterte’s stern warning, there have been a lot of questions raised on whether to keep Boracay open to tourists. Today, 6 March, the office of the president has finally released an official statement about the status of the troubled island.

Judgement day has finally come, and it comes a month after the president called the island a “cesspool” and issued a warning to close down the island.

On 9 February president Rodrigo Duterte said: “I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool. You go into the water, it’s smelly. The smell of what? Sh**. Because it all comes out in Boracay”.

The president is widely known for issuing such bold statements, but now according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., the president will not order an outright closure of the resort island and “do everything that can be done to rehabilitate Boracay”.

This is good news for the estimated 19,000 workers on the island who will lose their primary source of income should the island be closed to tourists.

Roque further said that the president repeated his instructions to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to protect Boracay during the 23rd Cabinet meeting that was held yesterday 5 March.

Environment secretary Roy Cimatu who has been assigned to clean up the island in six months was again asked to submit recommendations during the meeting. Since the start of the rehabilitation, Cimatu has already served more than 200 notices of violations (NOVs) of environmental laws to business establishments in the island.

Three agencies are currently in the process of conducting a factual and legal investigation on the polluted island: the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). These bodies are working together as “Task Force Boracay” and will soon be joined by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Back in February, the president also warned that charges will be filed against local officials who are responsible for the neglect that resulted in environmental concerns for Boracay.

Roque added: “Right now, I guess what they’re saying is (referring to resort owners), ‘We value Boracay like no one, and no other entities do because it’s our livelihood. But we don’t see how a closure, an immediate closure, will result in the rehabilitation of Boracay’”.

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