Philippine leader threatens to close 'sewer pool' holiday island of Boracay

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MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered an urgent cleanup of the country’s most famous tourist hotspot, Boracay, calling it a “sewer pool” that he would not hesitate to shut down completely.

The firebrand leader said he has given Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu six months to fix up the mess on Boracay island, which he said was overdeveloped and had become a “disaster”.

Boracay, on the northern tip of central Panay island, attracts nearly two million domestic and foreign visitors every year because of its fine, sugary white sand, lively night scene and abundant water sports.

Consistently voted by travel magazines as one of the top tourist destinations for relaxation, Boracay brings important revenues from five-star resorts and beachside restaurants and remains a lure for South Koreans, Chinese, Americans and Australians.

But Duterte warned that may not be the case for much longer because of what he said were piles of uncollected garbage just 20-25 meters from the beach and sewage flowing into the sea.

“You created a disaster there,” Duterte said in a speech on Cebu, another central island.

Duterte said he was holding the local government and Boracay residents responsible for being “overzealous” with development, allowing structures to be built up to the beach without proper sewage and water treatment facilities.

“I will charge you for serious neglect of duty making Boracay a fishpond or a sewer pool,” he said. “There will be a time that no more foreigners will go there.”

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty