THE PHILIPPINES TO CLOSE BORACAY FOR 6 MONTHS

A decision by the Philippines to close the holiday hotspot of Boracay, which President Rodrigo Duterte has called a “cesspool”, prompted airlines Thursday to cut back flights to the island.

The abrupt presidential order to close Boracay to tourism for six months from April 26 – October 25, aimed at rescuing the once idyllic island from ruin, was issued Wednesday.

Located off the northern tip of the central island of Panay, Boracay’s white sand, lively night scene and abundant water sports attracted nearly 2 million visitors last year, with the largest contingents coming from China and South Korea.

In closing the island to visitors, Duterte, known for his no-nonsense style, was responding to numerous government inspections following his criticism in February of sanitary conditions on the island.

Duterte was furious about sewage problems stemming from inadequate treatment systems and unrestrained development of businesses, which in many cases were operating without permits.

It is not immediately clear what the government plans to do during the closure and what the rehabilitation of the island might entail. A six-month closure could shave 0.1 percent off the country’s gross domestic product, according to a government estimate on Tuesday.