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Quake could cripple Bohol tourism

CEBU, Philippines - While the local retail sector has profoundly incurred losses due to the closure of most shopping malls and buildings for safety inspections, retailers downplayed business losses, but are worried on the earthquake's long term effects on tourism, especially in Bohol.

Philippine Retailers Association (PRA-Cebu) Chairman Jay P. Aldeguer said that business losses are the least of retailers' concerns right now; "what is important is the safety of their employees and the lives of people in general."

"It's good for malls and some buildings to be extra cautious on the safety of their structures," Aldeguer told The FREEMAN in an interview yesterday, expressing confidence that Cebu can withstand the challenges because it relies on broad industries, unlike Bohol that is largely a tourism-led economy.

Tourism-driven

Aldeguer expressed fears that the tourism sector in Bohol will be much affected by the effect of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which was the strongest to hit the Visayas in decades.

"In tourism, access is very important. Bohol's 72 bridges are affected, as well as the heritage sites," said Aldeguer.

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Aside from negative effects on business, Aldeguer said the community in Bohol is also seen to struggle in the longer term, unless issues on damaged infrastructure and accessibility are addressed at the soonest possible time.

"Bohol is largely tourism-based," said Aldeguer. "Bohol mainly relies on tourism for livelihood, unlike Cebu which is a center for commerce and where people depend also on a lot of industries that were not directly affected by the earthquake."

He reiterated that the safety precautions conducted by retail landlords, such as malls and retail buildings, are very important, and that retailers don't mind the loss of business in a day or two, as long as employees and customers are assured of safety.

Thankful

Aldeguer also stressed that businesses now are not focusing on their revenue loss, but are instead thankful that only very few lives are affected by the quake, and that most retailers and other business establishments kept their workers safe.

Ayala Center Cebu, for instance, announced that it had to close the mall during the day of the earthquake to allow property management to inspect the building. Yesterday, however, the mall was opened to public and declared safe.

The strongest quake to hit Central Visayas in 20 years destroyed historic churches, most of which centuries-old and considered national treasures.

As officials continue to assess the extent of the devastation brought by the tremor, the people of Bohol may soon have to hear mass outdoors or in safe buildings because many churches there were damaged.

Damaged churches

The famed Loboc Church or the Church of San Pedro crumbled during the quake. The church, constructed in 1602, is the second oldest in the province.

The Baclayon Church, also known as the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, was also damaged. The churches in Loboc and Baclayon are being preserved by the National Museum.

The quake also destroyed the Dauis Church or the Church of Our Lady of Assumption and the Loay Church, built in 1822.

Other Bohol churches that were damaged by the quake were the Church of Our Lady of Light in Loon, San Nicolas Church in Dimiao and Santa Cruz Parish Church in Maribojoc.

Cebu's treasures were also not spared since a number of churches, including the Basilica del Santo Niño, were damaged.

The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and Saint Catherine's Church in Carcar City also sustained damages, according to the Heritage Conservation Society. /JMD (FREEMAN)

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