The tourism office in the province has estimated that around 29,000 workers relying on tourism in four major destinations in Palawan, including Puerto Princesa, have been economically displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) head Maribel Buñi said during the Provincial Information Office’s (PIO) Alerto Palaweño virtual presser Thursday that based on the report of the municipalities of Coron, El Nido, and San Vicente, the livelihood of around 14,000 of their tourism workers were affected by the coronavirus disease.
Puerto Princesa, on the other hand, has 15,000 workers directly affected.
“More than 14,000 doon sa tatlong munisipyo ang apektado nitong nangyayari. May 15,000 direct[ly affected] employees naman ang sa PPC based sa report din. Siguro ‘yon ang other side of the story dahil masyado tayong naging dependent sa isang industriya, sa turismo,” she said.
“Ito ay kinabibilangan ng bangkero, drivers, hotel worker, restaurants, tour operators at hindi pa kasama ang investors, may-ari ng mga establishments,” Buñi added.
Buñi said that Palawan’s economy also lost billions since the pandemic struck during the peak season.
Previously, Tourism Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the three destinations have already lost over P3 billion in tourism receipts due to the imposition of travel restrictions and community quarantines to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Billions ang losses during this time pa lang ng pandemic na almost three months na, nagkataon kasi na ang pandemic ay sumakto doon sa season na pinupuntahan tayo, peak season kaya makikita talaga natin na apektado talaga. We really took advantage sa tourism na dahilan para mag-fuel ng ating livelihood,” Buñi said.
“Selective, prioritized, targeted, well-planned tourism reopening”
Buñi said there are plans for the reopening of tourism destinations in Palawan to domestic travelers.
She said Coron has already started to open some of its destinations, while El Nido is proposing to open island hopping in August.
“Ang pagpupulong namin ay sumentro doon sa plano ng tatlong munisipyo, kasama ang mga issues and concerns, particular ang epekto ng COVID-19 at ang timeline nila kung kailan sila magbubukas talaga without prejudice doon sa mga health protocols. Tinitingnan naman natin ‘yan with the appropriate national agencies kung kailangan na ba talaga, particularly ang mga gateways natin,” she said.
“Ang Calamian ay nagbukas na. Ang El Nido ay may draft na buksan na ang island hopping by September na pero plano palang. Ang target naman natin dito ay domestic na not necessarily from outside Palawan. Sinimulan na kasi ang Bocaray kaya pinupuntahan nila ang mga areas na puwede magkaroon ng tourism (travel) bubbles,” she added.
Buñi explained that the idea is not to open all borders to everyone, but to form COVID-19 free zones for traveling.
During her visit to Palawan on July 4, Puyat and Governor Jose Alvarez discussed pushing for a “selective, prioritized, targeted, well-planned” opening of the province’s domestic tourism, particularly for the towns of Coron, El Nido, and San Vicente.
“There is a chance that we can reopen tourism with the right protocols. Let’s do it slowly but surely because the hardest thing is the first step and this meeting is the first step,” Alvarez said.
“Money from the government is only limited, so somehow as a province, we have to generate our own resources so that we can all survive. The munisipyo, barangays and other auxiliary… especially in the tourism areas, we can start slowly but surely, hindi naman natin ito bubuksan agad-agad,” he added.