By Darlene Casten
Boracay re-opened October 26 after a six-month shutdown to complete the first phase of cleanup of the island.
In April, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte announced Boracay would be shut down to clean the beaches and deal with illegal sewage tie-ins that were draining into the ocean.
Millions of pesos have been spent to improve sewage systems, rehabilitate wetlands, widen and pave roads and demolish illegal and unsightly structures.
According to the Philippine Information Agency the coliform level in the water is now safe to swim in at 18.1 per 100ml MPN (most probable number), down 100 per cent from April.
Other measures include banning fireworks after 9 p.m. and roasting meat over coals and single-rider motorcycles are also banned. Drinking, smoking and dining on the beach is also no longer allowed. Hawkers and vendors, as well as electric lights, have been removed from the beach.
Snorkeling and diving has also been temporarily suspended. In order to get access to Boracay, tourists will need proof of a reservation at an approved hotel when they arrive at the
The island will undergo two more phases of cleanup. The last phase will take place in December 2019.
The ‘soft’ re-opening of Boracay came a week after locals were allowed to return.
Just over 2,060 hotel rooms in 25 hotels and resorts were open for business at the time of Boracay’s re-opening.
Gambling and casinos have been banned on the island and local ordinances and environmental regulations will be strictly enforced, government officials say.
Visitors to the island are restricted to 19,215 per day and only 6,405 tourists are able to stay overnight. The Philippines government is also considering restricting the number of tourists to sites like El Nido and La Union. Philippine media reported 3,068 tourists visited Boracay on October 26, far below the government’s limitations.
Calgary travel agent Anabelle Bedrejo of Fiesta Travel, says she has had some inquiries, but no bookings for Boracay since it has re-opened.
“People are still apprehensive to go,” she says. “They think some of the hotels might still be closed.”
The economy in Calgary is also playing a part, says Bedrejo.
“People are apprehensive to book,” she explains. “They don’t know if they are going to have a job next month.”
However, Bedrejo expects Boracay bookings will pick up in the coming months.
“We are just booking into the summer months now,” she says. “We will probably start getting more questions about Boracay in the next month or two.”
An Australian friend recently visited Boracay, she adds, and tells her the beaches are much cleaner and that vendors have been moved off the shore.
The Philippine government has also taken steps to prepare Boracay workers for the re-opening.
Just over 2,000 front-line workers, including hotel staff, tour guides and boat porters, received free government training to help them promote the ‘better Boracay’.
“Since the island’s temporary closure, we have been providing free training for our front liners or the ones who will work face to face with our tourists,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat says in a statement.
The training included information for workers on environmentally friendly tourism practices and services.
“We encourage everyone who sets foot in Boracay to be the best and most responsible tourist that you can be. Practice sustainable tourism and respect the island, and you’ll just keep it more fun for the generations to come,” Romulo-Puyat says.
More training has been held or is planned for the Boracay’s police officers, guides and stakeholders.
For more information about the new rules for visiting Boracay visit the Philippine Information Agency.