The Philippines yesterday shuttered its most famous holiday island Boracay to tourists for a six-month clean-up, which the government has imposed with a muscular show of its security forces.
Coast guard boats were on patrol and assault rifle-wielding police were posted at entry points to the once-pristine island that has become tainted by heavy commercialisation and overdevelopment.
Regional police head Cesar Binag told AFP the shutdown began past midnight, with tourists barred from boarding the ferry that is the main way onto the island.
"Boracay is officially closed to tourists. We are not closing establishments but tourists cannot enter. We are implementing the instruction of the president," Binag said.
About 600 policemen were deployed, with some performing life-like drills including riot officers battling bottle-hurling protesters and mock hostage taking of sunbathers -- all before startled locals.
"My nephews and nieces were afraid," Filipino tourist Tara Calcetas told AFP. "It was scary because there were people swimming yesterday (at the beach) and the police were firing guns as if there was a criminal here."
The government conceded yesterday there was no real threat, with interior ministry assistant secretary Epimaco Densing telling AFP the security presence was "just part of preparing for the worst".
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the shutdown this month after calling the resort a "cesspool", dirtied by tourism-related businesses flushing their raw sewage directly into the ocean.