Manila, Oct 26 (IANS) The Philippine resort island of Boracay officials reopened its doors to international tourists on Friday, after six months of intensive rehabilitation to recover from the excesses of mass tourism.
The inauguration ceremony took place at the Cagban Jetty Port marking the arrival of boats with the first tourists on Friday morning, transporting passengers from the nearby airports of Caticlan and Kalibo, reports Efe news.
The visitors were welcomed with a poster allowing them to take selfies with a large image of Puka beach and the word Boracay in giant letters, a structure that was unveiled on Friday at the island’s official reopening ceremony.
The event was attended by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, as well as local tourism authorities and representatives.
The ceremony, however, was not attended by President Rodrigo Duterte, who ordered the closure of the island “to undergo rehabilitation and restoration for six months, after (he) dubbed the island as a ‘cesspool'”.
Puyat said that Boracay would serve as a lesson on balancing development and protection of the environment and that the lessons learned would be used for other tourist spots in the country.
To avoid fresh overcrowding of tourists, the capacity of the island has been limited to 19,200 tourists at a time and no more than 6,400 people will be allowed to enter per day.
The island’s new rules include bans on smoking or drinking alcohol on the beach, setting up hammocks and parasols, making bonfires or sand castles, hawking and massage services.
In addition, water sports can only be practiced 100 metres away from the shore and the famous beach night parties which are a major tourist attraction have also been prohibited.
To monitor compliance with the new norms, police presence on the island has been strengthened with more than 400 officers and five police stations, in addition to having more than 2,000 trained civilians, most of them workers in the tourism sector, who will help in enforcing regulations.
Out of the nearly 600 hotels that had been in Boracay before the closing, on the day of the reopening, only 157 are operational with a total 7,308 rooms, thus meeting the new requirements to operate on the island.