TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Months after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's threat to close off Boracay for tourists, the most famous holiday island of the nation has been shut down officially for tourism purposes under high security starting Thursday as reported by Channel News Asia.
Tourists will have to stay away from the famous resort island from the early hours of Thursday for the next 6 months for the purpose of cleaning up the island, especially its drainage system.
The government put on a muscular show of its security forces to impose the new orders. Officers wielding assault rifles were seen at every entry point to make sure no one was taking the orders lightly, local media reported.
In a previous report, on Feb. 9 Duterte called Boracay a "cesspool" as the sewage and garbage problem was destroying the island's ecosystem and posing a threat to the health of visitors. He went on to threaten to close the island if the environmental issues were not addressed.
"I will close Boracay," he declared, adding that it had become a "cesspool". In March, his threat was made official.
Channel News Asia reported that the official shutdown began early Thursday morning when tourists were barred from boarding the ferry which is the main path to enter the island.
"Boracay is officially closed to tourists. We are not closing establishments but tourists cannot enter. We are implementing the instruction of the president," regional police head Cesar Binag was quoted by local media.
President Duterte ordered the shut down of the island after after seeing a video of raw sewage spewing out of a pipe on Bulabog Beach, a popular area with wind and kite surfers.
Boracay's infrastructure is proving to be unable to accommodate the influx of constant visitors and the new hotels being built to host them. The island's sewage system in particular can't cope, which has left many of the island's streets and alleys in a constant state of repair as maintenance crews desperately try to clear clogged pipes.
The island received some 2 million visitors last year, according to the Philippine government, mostly from China and South Korea. It has also been reported that tourism brought an estimated $1 billion to the local economy last year alone.