The Minasangay Island Ecological Park and Resort in Balangkayan, Eastern Samar has started its operation this week to cater to local tourists amid the global health crisis.
In a video message posted on the Facebook page of Mayor Allan Contado on Thursday, he said the local government-managed tourist destination strictly follows the guidelines issued by the national Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID).
“Based on the guidelines, local government units have the power to regulate tourism and the Department of Tourism is also dependent on them. We decided to open this one for the people of Eastern Samar as long as minimum health standards are strictly observed,” he added.
“We recognize the fact that this is not only a health issue but also an economic issue. Tourism is our top source of income in terms of local revenues. We have employees here and we cannot afford to starve our constituents,” he added.
Contado said the town earned PHP4-million last year from around 100,000 tourist arrivals largely due to tourism activities in Minasangay Island, a destination known for mangroves and various rock formations ideal for seaside view, cliff jumping and scuba diving.
Balangkayan is approximately 174 kilometers north of Tacloban City, the regional capital. From the town center, the site can be reached through a hanging bridge, crossing a river.
To date, Eastern Samar has no active case of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), as its first two patients from Borongan City and Mercedes town have already recovered, the provincial health office said.
“With the data, the national IATF believes that the province is a low-risk area. But it is not a license to be complacent and let our guard down. Let us help each other and always bear in mind that the virus is here. Practice minimum health standards such as wearing a mask, physical distancing, and proper hand hygiene,” Contado said.
The local government will also not require local tourists to present a health certificate upon entry.
Meanwhile, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Samar and Biliran provinces remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) until July 15.
Since the outbreak, the region has confirmed a total of 611 cases, including 493 recoveries and three deaths, according to the Department of Health. (PNA)