At least 26 cities and towns in Eastern Visayas have re-opened their tourism industry under the new normal as the country continues to reel from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said on Tuesday.
In Eastern Samar, open to tourists are Borongan City and the towns of Llorente, San Policarpo, Can-avid, Balangkayan, Lawaan, Hernani, Mercedes, and Guiuan; Maasin City and the towns of Hinunangan, Libagon, Liloan, Macrohon, Padre Burgos, Pintuyan, St. Bernard, San Juan, and Sogod in Southern Leyte; Paranas, Calbiga, Basey, and Sta. Rita in Samar; and Jaro, Abuyog, and Matalom in Leyte.
“We are already in the recovery phase. We need to slowly reopen our tourism businesses here to nurture back our economy. Many workers have been displaced as businessmen and people’s organizations running these tourist sites have minimal to zero income for the past eight months,” Karen Rosa Tiopes, DOT 8 (Eastern Visayas) head, said in an interview.
Tiopes said most of these sites are beach resorts, which have big spaces to ensure physical distancing but are only open to locals and people from neighboring places due to the threat of Covid-19.
“We have been encouraging local government units to assess if they can now reopen (their) borders for tourists. If we will look into the guidelines of the inter-agency task force, inter-zonal and intrazonal movement of persons for any purpose is already allowed, as long as they comply with the set requirements of the LGU,” she said.
The DOT has also set its guidelines in line with the protocols of the departments of health, labor, and trade for the operation of tourism businesses under the new normal.
Tiopes said of the 247 DOT-accredited accommodation establishments in the region, 181 have already secured a certificate of authority to operate from the regional office but only 121 are operating.
“Some of these hotels and facilities have been catering to health workers and returning residents, including locally stranded individuals and overseas Filipino workers, and some already accept regular clients, but they are not allowed to cater (to) both,” she added.
Tiopes said the resumption of operations of other tourism destinations in the region would depend mainly on the people’s readiness to comply with health standards.
“We need discipline and unity before we can reopen the tourism industry in the entire region. We urge the public to strictly follow health protocols and comply with all the requirements. Likewise with tourism establishments to enforce minimum health standards, including the use of QR codes, thermal scanner, and installation of handwashing facilities, among others,” she added.
To date, the region has a total of 7,918 Covid-19 cases, with 7,227 recoveries and 77 deaths, based on the health department’s monitoring report. (PNA)