Asia Minute: Philippine Island Closing to Tourists

Apr 10, 2018

Boracay Island, Philippines
Credit Alexey Komarov / Wikimedia Commons

One of the most popular island destinations in Asia is closing its beaches. And its airports. The plan is to shut down the island to visitors for six months, and it’s already causing disruptions not only on the island but also thousands of miles away. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

If you’re planning a trip to the Philippine island of Boracay, you have a choice. You can get there and leave by two weeks from Thursday, or you can wait for six months. Because in a couple of weeks, the island is shutting down until the autumn: no visitors.

Two years ago, readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine voted Boracay the best island in the world. Last year, some 2 million visitors flocked there.

Two months ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called the island a “cesspool.” And he chose that word pretty deliberately. Reuters reports nearly 200 businesses on the island have been releasing raw sewage into the ocean, and some of it has been washing back along the beaches.

The government plans to work on fixing infrastructure—including drainage and sewers.

Credit Deortiz / Flickr

Meanwhile, layoffs have started in the hospitality industry, and the federal government has set up a “calamity fund” of more than 38 million dollars to help displaced workers. Critics say that’s not enough, and they have other fears—mainly that the island is being cleaned up so Chinese tourists can come gamble.

Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment announced last week that it has obtained a provisional license to open a $500 million resort casino on Boracay.

President Duterte said Monday he’s opposed to that plan.