Tourism sector gets big boost
Mae Fhel K. Gom-os (The Freeman) - October 18, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Everyone, regardless of age, can visit Bantayan Island in northern Cebu following the reopening of its tourism industry Friday, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said.

In Lapu-Lapu City, the local government launched yesterday a travel fair as it is slowly taking steps to revive the tourism sector badly hit by the coronavirus  pandemic.

Since Cebu is now under the relaxed modified general community quarantine status, Garcia said, there are no age restrictions for tourists planning to visit Bantayan and other tourist destinations in the province.

Department of Tourism in Central Visayas Director Shalimar Tamano, for his part, backed Garcia’s statement, saying families prefer traveling together.

“Who would want to travel kun dili kuyog ang pamilya?” he was quoted as saying in a report published on the Capitol-run website, Sugbo News.

The governor and other officials were on the island to inspect the Bantayan Island Airport and to conduct a stakeholder’s meeting among local tourism stakeholders.

Also on Friday, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) issued Resolution No. 79 allowing persons from 15 to 65 years of age to go out. But they can only be allowed to leave their houses “when indispensable” and “under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services, or for work in industries and offices or such activities.”

The new resolution also states: “Any person below 15 years old, those who are over 65 years of age, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity or other health risks and pregnant women shall be required to remain in their residence at all times.” Previously, the age set was above 21 to below 60.

Requirements

Moreover, tourists who wish to go visit the renowned tourist destination need to book their accommodations beforehand.

The confirmed hotel/resort booking is required for the purchase of the two-way boat ticket in going to the island tourism sites, said Garcia.

Under the Executive Order No.20-A, pre-booking must be done prior to visiting the site attraction or destination using the centralized online booking portal managed by the Cebu Provincial Tourism Task Force.

Garcia said tourists, however, are not required to present a medical certificate.

But tourists are required to wear face masks and face shields in public transportation and public places, she said.

Garcia also urged all the stakeholders including resort owners and operators, tour guides, tour organizations and other provincial-related industries in Bantayan to comply with the requirements needed for them to operate to avoid penalties.

Under the EO, all accommodation establishments must secure first a certificate of authority to operate (CAO) from DOT.

Aside from the said requirements, police checkpoints were also discussed during the stakeholders’ meeting.

Garcia said checkpoints remain but should not be stringent as before.

She said even board members who attended the meeting were scrutinized at a checkpoint in Bogo City.

“Even our board members were subjected to very strict scrutinizing when in fact and general agreement already was the checkpoints are there, but you will not need to be that strict because the entire province is under MGCQ," said Garcia.

Cebu Provincial Police Office Colonel Aladdin Collado said he already directed the city police chief to ease the checkpoint.

"Rest assured that there will be changes these coming days," he said.

Present during the meeting were Fourth District Board Members Kerrie Shimura and Raci Franco, Fifth District Board Member Red Duterte, Sixth District Board Member Glenn Anthony Soco, Tamano, and other officials.

Trips

With the reopening of Bantayan’s tourism, Super Shuttle Ferry president Paul Rodriguez said they have two fixed trips from Jagnaya.

He said the first ferry will depart from Jagnaya to the island at 8 a.m, while the second trip is at 2:30 p.m.

Island Shipping, through its representative, said that they are planning four trips from Jagnaya at 1 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Ferry schedules from Bantayan to Jagnaya start at 9:30 a.m., then 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

To ensure that their schedules are strictly followed, Garcia asked Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) 7 Director Marc Anthony Pascua to monitor the schedules provided by the two shipping lines.

Moreover, Garcia urged Cebuanos to explore the province.

“Now, let's try as much as possible as I have been asking, Sugbuanon, explore your own province. Tabangi ang isig ka Sugbuanon. Kay kinsa paman diay magtinabangay di ba ang mga Sugbuanon mismo karon," she said.

The tourism industry of Bantayan Island was reopened Friday in a bid to help revive Cebu province’s economy.

The three town mayors in Bantayan Island—Santa Fe Mayor Ithamar Espinosa, Bantayan Mayor Arthur Despi, and Madridejos Mayor Salvador Dela Fuente— expressed their gratitude to the governor for reopening the tourism industry.

Dela Fuente said the reopening of tourism industry is a big factor for them considering that they are the ones who supply seafoods to resorts and restaurants in Sta. Fe.

On the possibility of allowing tourists from other islands, Garcia said the province is still communicating with other areas.

“The governors, kami we're trying to set a date nga magkasabot mi nga i-allow una nato inter-island within Region 7. But right now, we are only open to the island of Cebu," Garcia said.

Airport

In a separate development, the Bantayan Airport in Barangay Okoy, Santa Fe town is expected to cater bigger aircrafts soon.

Sugbo News reported that the airport terminal project is set to be fully operational by the end of the year once the 1.2 kilometer runway extension will be completed.

Travel Fair

Meanwhile, the Lapu-Lapu City government officially launched yesterday its Balik Turismo Travel Fair with an aim to slowly recover its economy from the health crisis.

“We cannot just close our eyes tell ourselves that everything will go back to normal, it won’t. Maybe not a year or two. But we cannot afford also to close down our businesses, we cannot continue to give food packs and rice to our people. As a city who depends on tourism,  we were among the first to be affected

but hopefully, not the last to recover,” said Cindi King-Chan, the chairman of the City Tourism, Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission.

King-Chan said the administration of Mayor Junard Chan in collaboration with the CTCHAC and stakeholders have created a task force to redefine, refocus and change their tourism game plan, and to go forward in order to survive, revive and thrive.

 “As such, the plan Balik Turismo Travel Fair was born. It is the nucleus in which our tourism recovery will jumpstart and everything else will just follow,” King-Chan said.

The main objective, she said, is to help the city bounce back from billions of losses, thereby saving  businesses, saving jobs and ultimately saving Oponganons.

Department Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat, in her message, lauded the city’s recent tourism activity.

 “As the country continues to craft and implement recovery measures and restore travel confidence, this activity comes at an opportune time to showcase the products and services as well as the health and safety protocols of the different accomodation establishments that will surely help in reviving not just Lapu-Lapu City’s economy but also the country as a whole,” Puyat said.

 Puyat said restarting tourism in Lapu-Lapu City in a post quarantine environment will be anchored on attributes that has for years has made the city a major destination in the country.

 “We are grateful for Lapu-Lapu City government’s effort in spearheading this activity. With tourism being the bread and butter, a wise choice to make this endeavor, which is a major project of the city government,” the DOT secretary added. — Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Le Phyllis F. Antojado ,KQD

GWENDOLYN GARCIA PANDEMIC
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