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Heavy police presence closes idyllic Philippine island under environmental stress



The recent tourists on the popular Filipino island of Boracay were asked to pack their bathing suits and leave Thursday when a government shutdown came into effect to cleanse the paradise of wastewater and curb overdevelopment.

More than 600 members of the security service forces, including the police and the Coast Guard, are patrolling Boracay to enforce the closure ordered by the president

Rodrigo Duterte,

who described the island as a "septic tank"? There were no estimates of the number of tourists remaining, but the arrival slowed down after weeks of warnings and flight cancellations.

Around two million tourists flock to the white sand beaches each year, but the government says uncontrolled development and pollution from sewage pipes that lead directly into the sea are destroying the environment and making it unsafe for swimming.

Damage caused by tourism on the tropical islands of Southeast Asia has led other governments to take similar measures. Last month, Thailand said it would close Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh, the scene of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, for four months a year.

There is a boom of Chinese visitors and the spread of cheap flights. Www.mjfriendship.de/de/index.php?op…27&Itemid=47 A lot of visitors from Europe, the USA and other places on islands, who did not succeed in restricting illegal construction and building adequate infrastructure.

During the closure, the authorities will work on a broken sewage system and illegal objects too close to the beach and clean up the damage of decades of tourism. The government says it will compensate workers, but not "wealthy resort owners," to cut income.

Local business groups have started cleaning up, hoping for a shorter stoppage. The Boracay Foundation, which represents a group of restaurants, hotels and other businesses, says 36,000 people could be affected by the loss of income. The government estimates the number at 20,000 once migrants and informal workers leave the country. The island remains open only to residents who hold government issued identity cards.

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at jake.watts@wsj.com


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