AKLAN, Philippines – Tourists and workers arrive at the "new" Boracay on Friday, October 26, to see the island come to life on the first day it was opened to the public.
The Philippine government officially opened the island 6 months after it was closed due to its environmental problems.
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 that the fecal coliform level had significantly gone down during the closure.
The crowd walking around the beachfront was a welcome sight to workers and residents.
As early as 5 am Friday boats from mainland Aklan traveled to Cagban Jetty Port in Boracay to ferry people all excited to see the island come to life again.
To manage the number of people entering the island, the government has separated the entrance for tourists and workers.
The workers pass by the pontoon on the eastern side of the port, while the tourists take the usual entrance to the island.
Authorities said this would more efficiently track the number of people entering Boracay. The island can only accommodate a total of 54,945 people at a time.
A new icon was also unveiled on Friday, set to welcome tourists as they arrive at Cagban Jetty Port. The icon shows the island's famous Puka Beach, which is a boat away from Boracay.
Four modern jeepneys operated by Grab Philippines has started plying Boracay's still-under-construction roads. This is part of the integrated plan of the Department of Transportation.
Rides are free until the end of the year. By January 2019, the government would be charging P300 to P350 for the Hop-on, Hop-off service it would be offering.
Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler
Booking e-trikes will soon be hassle-free, as ride-hailing firm HirNa will also launch the service in the coming months.
On Friday, government officials, led by Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, officially opened a part of the 4.1-kilometer Circumferential Road.
The 2.66-kilometer Cagban Road stretches from the port to Hue Hotel, offering a wider street to motorists and pedestrians. The road is 12-meter wide, with enough space for sidewalks to encourage walking.
Villar said the full alignment of Circumferential Road would be open by December, while construction work would be completed by April 2019.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Boracay closed in an effort to curb overdevelopment and crack down on establishments violating environmental regulations.
The Philippine government imposed measures to prevent a relapse, regulating establishments' permits, putting a cap on the number of visitors, and issuing anti-beach boozing rules.
While rehabilitation efforts have yet to be completed, officials said sustaining the "new" Boracay is still a "shared responsibility."
"It is about balancing development and protecting the environment. Not just for Boracay alone, but also for other island destinations around the country," top cop Oscar Albayalde said, reminding the new environmental compliance volunteers in Boracay of their dutry. – Rappler.com