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Philippines Tightens Restrictions on Cruise Ships at Boracay

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Boracay is well-known for its beaches (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 2019-05-02 18:29:49

In response to concerns over visitor traffic volume, the government of the Philippines is tightening its limits on cruise ships at the island of Boracay during peak traffic periods. Starting April 16, cruise ships carrying more than 2,000 passengers cannot call at the cruise port for Boracay. In addition, the Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT) has instituted "close-out dates" for cruise ships on major holidays, like Eid al-Fitr, the Philippines' National Heroes Day, All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day, the Southeast Asian Games and the Christmas holidays. 

Boracay has a regulated daily capacity of about 19,200 people, including 6,400 daily tourist arrivals. The limits are strictly enforced, according to DOT, and the cruise ship restrictions are intended to align cruise tourism with the visitor cap.

“The new policy guidelines are aligned with the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force efforts to regulate port calls [for] the carrying capacity of the island. DoT believes that residents and visitors could enjoy Boracay Island for the longest time through the cooperation of everyone in promoting sustainable tourism,” said DOT regional director Helen Catalbas, speaking to Skift. 

In 2018, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a months-long closure of Boracay to cruise passengers and other tourists altogether, citing pollution and environmental concerns. Royal Caribbean, Star and Dream Cruises had a small number of itineraries affected by the closure.

According to Duterte's environment undersecretary, an aerial survey of the island in January 2018 revealed excessive "garbage, overcrowding [and] traffic congestion," reports Rappler. In addition, the government asserted that nearly 200 businesses on the island had been discharging raw sewage into the sea. The pollution allegations involved shoreside firms and the effects of total tourism volume, not cruise lines or cruisers specifically.