Police were draughted in yesterday to enforce the beginning of a six-month ban on travel to one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines. Police commissioner Cesar Binag told reporters the ban had begun at midnight and only islanders with valid ID cards would be permitted on ferries to Boracay.
A 600-strong army of police officers are on hand to emphasise the fact Mr Binag and the Philippines government mean business. The commissioner explained that President Rodrigo Duterte had authorised the closure. He noted that no commercial properties on the island had been asked to close, but at the same time there would be no tourists for them to serve.
President Duterte labelled the once pristine Boracay a toilet last month. He claimed the improper disposal of sewage and waste was a direct cause of the island's current rotten environment. Until a couple of decades ago, Boracay was way off the mainstream tourism trail and the few intrepid backpackers who did make it here did not cause any environmental damage.
Mass tourism has led to uncontrolled construction, fast-food joints on the beach and once pristine sands covered with seas of algae and waste plastic containers and bottles. Representatives from Boracay's tourism-related businesses, and the estimated 30,000 people employed by them, have already voiced discontent over the hard-line measure.
Although the weeks leading up to the ban have not seen any violent protests, local political analysts say authorities are bracing for trouble as economic hardship sets in. The large posse of police have been conducting practice drills in dealing with the likes of violent demonstrators and even rescuing sunbathers who had been kidnapped.