Boracay beach (Source: AFP)

Hanoi (VNA) – The Philippines has decided to close its resort island of Boracay to tourists for six months from April 26 to address sewage and environment-related problems.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the shutdown to start on April 26, his spokesman Harry Roque said in an announcement on Twitter on April 4, without providing further details.

Earlier, Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones stated that a closure would mean airlines and ferries’ suspension of their Boracay services and make the beaches off-limits.

There are around 17,000 people working in 500 hotels in Boracay, apart from 11,000 construction workers working on new projects.

The decision raises questions about the livelihoods of thousands employed as part of a bustling tourist trade that serves some two million guests on the island each year.

The island has some 500 tourism-related businesses, which had a combined annual revenue of 56 billion pesos (1.07 billion USD) last year.

However, in February, Duterte blasted the tiny island’s hotels, restaurants and other businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea and turning it into a “cesspool”.

Officials have warned the island’s drainage system is being used to send the untreated sewage into its surrounding turquoise waters.

At least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, was named the best island resort by magazine publisher Conde Nast in 2016.

It was ranked second out of 25 beaches in Asia and 24th in the world in TripAdvisor's 2018 Travellers' Choice Awards.-VNA