As the country embraces the so-called “new normal,” the revival of the economy down to the lower level after it was gravely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the major concerns. Hence, the local government Puerto Princesa City created a three-phase plan for the reopening of tourism, ensuring the people’s safety while engaging back with tourism-based activities.
The reopening of local tourism was first announced by City Mayor Lucilo Bayron himself during a press conference last November 10.
In a recent interview with Committee on Tourism chairman City Councilor Matthew Mendoza during Palawan Daily’s online program called “Newsroom,” he said that this plan will start on December 8, 2020, which is also the celebration of the City Fiesta in honor of Puerto Princesa’s Patron Saint, Immaculate Concepcion of Mary.
Mendoza further explained that during the first phase of reopening, only the local residents of Puerto Princesa are allowed to visit the City’s tourist attractions like the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) and Honda Bay among others.
“[Ang dahilan nito ay] para ang ating economy ay gumalaw na. Ang paliwanag kasi riyan, kailangang magsimula rito muna sa atin para ang tao masanay na. Darating at darating [kasi] ang time na kailangan nang mag-open ng ating siyudad kasi kailangang magkaroon na ng trabaho para ang ating economy ay bumalik na. So, kailangan nating i-practice ‘yon, kailangan nating matutunan paano harapin [ang] pagdating ng araw na magre-receive na tayo ng mga turista galing ibang lugar,” he said.
He added that non-residents of the city, even from the other municipalities of Palawan, are not yet allowed to visit these attractions during the first phase.
“Para lang po clear sa iba: hindi pa bukas ang turismo natin para sa mga taga-labas ng Puerto [Princesa] o [Lalawigan ng] Palawan. ‘Yong Luzon, Visayas, [at] Mindanao, hindi pa natin pwedeng i-welcome kasi ibang stage po ‘yan ng ating reopening. Ang mga international tourists galing sa ibang bansa, hindi pa rin natin i-welcome sa reopening natin,” Mendoza further said.
In the second phase, Mendoza stated that it is when people from the other municipalities of Palawan and the domestic tourists will be allowed to visit the City’s attractions while in the third phase, foreign tourists will be entertained.
“Baka by that time ay may mas maganda nang mga guidelines ang ating national government. Malamang next year na ito na pwede nang pumunta rito ang mga non-residents. Kailangang ma-organize nang maayos,” Mendoza said and added that the tourists will be arriving in Puerto Princesa through a travel agency and a package tour for the smooth conduct of contact tracing if needed.
As part of the preparedness of LGU-Puerto Princesa, COVID-19 marshals will be deployed in major places with the help of the barangay officials to monitor and check if all the health protocols are observed.
“Kabilang sa mga iti-train diyan na magiging primary frontliner, (sinasabi kong primary kasi sila talaga ‘yong humaharap sa mga bisita natin) ay ‘yong mga tour guides natin. Iti-train din po sila kung paano maging isang COVID Marshal,” the councilor added.
When asked how prepared the city is, Mendoza positively said that preparedness is already observed in Puerto Princesa, as the major establishments strictly implement the minimum health standards.
“Sa obserbasyon [ko], kung iikot [tayo] sa siyudad, bukas na ang mga resto at marami na ang tinatangkilik ng locals at maski ng galing ng ibang munisipyo. Makikita na pagpasok pa lamang, kapag may guwardiya ang isang pasilidad ay isinasailaim ka sa tamang proseso—hand sanitizing, check ng face mask, face shield kung kailangan, at sa ibang tindahan at mall,” he added.
As the City Government offers a discount for several attractions–for instance in PPUR’s entrance fee, now as low as P150–the LGU appeals to the private sector to also offer discounts on their services and products as a way of encouraging the locals to patronize local services and products.
“[Ito ay] para maengganyo ang mga mamamayan. Tayo-tayo muna ang iikot hanggang dito pa tayo sa ganitong situation,” Mendoza added.
“Kaya nating labanan ang COVID-19 na ito. Sundin lang po natin ang lahat ng mga nailalabas na guidelines ng national government. Siyempre kasama na ang City Government diyan at ang lahat ng nire-require sa atin para makaiwas sa pagkalat ng COVID-19,” Mendoza said.