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Philippines Tourism

Paradise island to reopen – but is it ready?

The Philippine president described the beach paradise as a “cesspool” and shut it down. Has it recovered?

Boracay, the idyllic tiny island in the Philippines that was closed earlier this year because of the effects of overtourism, deploying riot police to prevent access by tourists, is now preparing for a “soft reopening” on October 15.

The country’s president described it as a “cesspool”, but with the reopening date just six weeks away, some experts say the island is still recovering, the Telegraph newspaper reports.

Just over one million tourists visited the Philippines in 1990. Last year, it was 6.6 million, and almost a third of these – more than two million – visited Boracay’s 10.3 square kilometres with its white-powder sandy beaches. Yet the country also has 7,640 other islands for tourists to choose from.

Inspectors sent by the country’s controversial president found over 800 environmental violations.

“We have not yet accepted bookings until now because rehabilitation is just 50%,” Jose Clemente, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, told the Philippine Star. “It might be useless to go there because a lot of work is still ongoing.”

He added: “If [tourists] insist on visiting, don’t expect a fully restored Boracay as it is still a work in progress.”

After the first soft reopening, another will follow next April before a full opening next December. A cap is planned on visitor numbers, which the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force says should be 6,405 a day.

Beach alternatives
The Telegraph recommends three alternatives to Boracay: Coron, with “awe-inspiring white sand beaches and volcanic limestone cliffs that hunker over lagoons”; Cebu, a long and narrow island at the heart of the Visayan Islands; and Siargao, “considered the country’s best surf spot” and also a base for an island-hopping excursion.

Meanwhile, another victim of overtourism, Maya Bay, the Thai beach made famous by the movie The Beach, was also closed this year. It had been due to reopen on September 30, but this has been pushed back to November 1.

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