Philippines to temporarily close popular tourist island Boracay

The Philippine island of Boracay will be closed to tourists for six months following concerns of damage to its once pristine shores.

A spokesperson for President Rodrigo Duterte said the closure would begin on 26 April.

Earlier this year Mr Duterte said Boracay was turning into a “cesspool” and threatened to shut it down.

The island, known for its white-sand beaches, attracted nearly 2 million visitors last year.

The decision has prompted concern for the thousands of people employed in Boracay’s busy tourist trade.

The island is home to around 500 tourism-related businesses, which drew in annual revenue of $1.07bn (£760m) last year. The government said affected companies will receive financial aid.

It’s not clear how the shutdown will be implemented, though the department of trade and industry had earlier proposed closing the island down in phases, saying a total shutdown would be detrimental to businesses and livelihoods.

Damage fears

The move follows growing concern over the island’s environmental health.

Officials had warned businesses had been releasing wastewater into the surrounding waters.

In February, Mr Duterte condemned the island’s hotels, restaurants and other tourist businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea.

“I will charge you for serious neglect of duty [for] making Boracay a fishpond or a sewer pool,” Mr Duterte said at the time.

“Either [you] clean it up or I will close it permanently. There will be a time that no more foreigners will go there.”

Gay wedding ban sparks cruise boycott call

Carnival Corporation, the cruise firm that owns P&O and Cunard, is facing a boycott from LGBT travellers after halting gay weddings on some ships.

The company was forced to stop allowing same-sex unions on its ships that are registered in Bermuda.

The British Overseas Territory legalised gay weddings in May last year, but the law was repealed last month following a change of government.

That legally prevented Carnival from allowing same-sex ceremonies on board.

A P&O Cruises spokesman said: “Carnival Corporation believes that same sex marriage should be legalised in Bermuda and therefore we are opposed to the new law. We are currently working with local interest groups in Bermuda and elsewhere to explore options in relation to this.”

However, some LGBT activists in Bermuda oppose a tourism boycott of the island. Kenita Placide said many LGBT people work in the tourism industry, while Linda Miezer said a boycott would “cause people to discriminate against the LGBT community”.

Tony Brannon, a Bermudian campaigner, said reinstating the island’s gay wedding ban had “given Bermuda a huge PR black eye”.

Legalisation came about after the Bermuda supreme court ruled that excluding same-sex couples from marriage amounted to discrimination.

The Domestic Partnerships Act was then passed by Bermuda’s House of Assembly and signed into law by the island’s governor John Rankin last month, making Bermuda the first country to revoke gay marriage.

Mr Brannon said a case would be heard by the supreme court in May arguing that the ban violated Bermuda’s constitution.

If the legal challenge was successful, he hoped the government would accept the decision.

As Bermuda is an overseas dependent territory, the UK government could have blocked Bermuda’s move to ban same-sex unions.

However, Foreign Office minister Harriett Baldwin told the Commons last month that it “would not be appropriate to use this power to block legislation, which can only can be used where there is a legal or constitutional basis for doing so, and even then only in exceptional circumstances”.

Labour MP Chris Bryant said Britain’s failure to act “totally undermines UK efforts to advance LGBT rights”.