Philippine tourist destinations to boost comms and medical response capabilities
Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - March 21, 2020 - 5:00pm

MANILA, Philippines— Amid the rising COVID-19 cases in the country and threats of natural disasters, the Department of Tourism recently partnered with private sector to disaster preparedness and recovery as well as medical responses at tourist destinations.

In view of this, the DOT coordinated with the MVP Group of Companies’ social responsibility consortium Tulong Kapatid as well as the Makati Medical Center Foundation to boost the tourist destinations' health and communications portfolio.

Last week, the private sector patners turned over equipment such as satellite phones, mobile data devices and stethoscopes, nebulizer kits, and blood pressure sets, among others.

The Makati Medical Foundation, PLDT-Smart Foundation, Metro Pacific Foundation and One Mercalco under the Tulong Kapatid likewise donated around 60 automated sensor hand sanitizers to the hospital, airport, seaport terminals and other strategic places in the island in support of the DOH’s call for personal hygiene amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. said the presence of hand sanitizers builds confidence on the destination and also build on capacity of the LGU and the national agency to response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Of course one of the sectors affected [by the COVID-19] is the tourism sector which would’ve boomed during this summer time…we said that let’s just make sure our tourism sector is resilient so that’s why we’re applying different expertise resources from the group so that we can help the different destination make them safe and resilient,” Ma. Esther Santos, PLDT Smart Foundation president, said.

“We believe that this is our way of not just supporting but really making a difference at the national level perspective,” Marge Barro, MMC Foundation executive director, also said.

Noel Pineda, senior manager for International Roaming and Consumer Business of Smart Communications, said that Boracay was the hardest hit by Typhoon Ursula in December 2019 which cut off the signal on the island and so the DOT contacted them to deploy satellite phones.

Pineda and Santos said more satellite phones will be prepositioned in other tourist destinations which are also prone to typhoons or other natural disasters in case of any emergency.

Long-term health security plans for Boracay

Aside from these equipments, the private sector partners would also help in implementing long-term trainings and technology to boost the health security of Boracay. This include an implementation of pandemic preparedness program.

Barro said they are eyeing to level up the Ciriaco S. Tirol Hospital from an infirmary to a Level 1 trauma hospital.  According to Department of Health regulations, a Level 1 or General hespital provides "medical and surgical care to the sick and injured, maternity, newborn and child care."

For its part, the DOT said it is thankful for the help from the private sector.

Boncato said the donation of these private firms did not go through the traditional process of procurement.

“We’re very fortunate to have partnered with the private sectors this time in a very interesting time of tourism and what we have really laid out is to address major issues that we've been grappling for a while specially in destinations like Boracay,” the tourism official said.

“This (partnership) came out on an instant type of request and recognition of issues and then the private sector comes in to help out the national government. So, Exactly that bayanihan spirit that we've been espousing from the very start,” he added.

ARTURO BONCATO JR. BORACAY CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM DOMESTIC TOURISM MAKATI MEDICAL CENTER FOUNDATION MVP GROUP OF COMPANIES NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PLDT SMART COMMUNICATIONS INC
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