Boracay Island now open

AKLAN, Philippines – World-famous tourist hot spot Boracay is now open to the public, exactly 6 months after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered its closure to rehabilitate the island.

After months-long rehabilitation efforts, Boracay's powdery white shores are spotless, without a hint of green algae on its coastline. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu also said the fecal coliform level had significantly gone down during the closure.

The island's road network meters away from the shoreline, however, tell a different story. There was still ongoing construction work, with government and establishments racing against time to fix what they can.

Some businesses remained closed, pending the issuance of permits from the Inter-agency Task Force. The government had implemented a "no compliance, no opening" policy to ensure that establishments follow rules and regulations.

Business owners were not expecting too many visitors during the reopening anyway, they said. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat had earlier asked airlines to reduce the number of flights to Kalibo and Caticlan in Aklan province, below the flight frequencies prior to the closure. (WATCH: Back to zero? Businesses in debt as Boracay reopens)

Travel around Boracay remained a challenge, as some streets were still closed for road widening works. Only a part of the Boracay Circumferential Road – from Cagban Port to Hue Hotel – was open on Friday, October 26.

Government said the rehabilitation of the island would be completed by the end of 2019, but rules would have to be in place to prevent a relapse to the "old" Boracay. (READ: What to expect when Boracay reopens on October 26)

Under the guidelines, only 19,215 tourists will be allowed on the island at any given time. Officials said they would limit entry, with around 6,400 allowed to enter per day, assuming they would stay for at least 3 days. (IN CHARTS: Boracay is bursting at the seams)

Visitors would also have limited hotels and resorts to choose from, with only 116 accommodations with 5,677 rooms open for bookings as of October 19. Prior to the rehabilitation, there were 525 hotels in the island with over 14,000 rooms.

The annual Labor Day party, dubbed Laboracay, is now a thing of the past, along with the usual beachfront parties that the island was known for. Local businesses used to thrive on such events.

Despite the shutdown, foreign tourist arrivals in the Philippines still went up to 4.84 million in September. Tourism officials are confident that the year-end target of 7.5 million would be achieved. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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