(L-R) Councilor Matthew Mendoza, Mayor Lucilo Bayron, and city IMT chief Dr. Dean Palanca during a press conference on Tuesday at Dang Maria's.

The city government of Puerto Princesa has urged all commercial establishments and businesses that have remained closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic to start reopening in anticipation of the national government’s decision to open up the economy.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron, in a press conference held at Dang Maria’s Bed and Breakfast on Tuesday, said he is expecting President Rodrigo Duterte to “very soon” signal a nationwide reopening of the economy under a “new normal” environment and that he wants Puerto Princesa City to be ahead in its preparations.

“Very soon, the national government will declare the entire country to be under new normal and people will be coming to Puerto Princesa City. Hindi tayo pwedeng magpa atraso dahil mahuhuli tayo sa ibang LGU. Pag nagdeklara na ang national government kailangan ready tayo,” Mayor Bayron said.


Main attractions to open

Bayron outlined plans to re-open the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) as soon as possible, including Honda Bay — two of the city’s most visited attractions before the pandemic. He called for the lowering of the entrance fee to PPUR from the current P500 to P150, as a signal to the local business that they too should start to open.

“Para mag-send tayo ng signal sa mga business establishment na willing tayong malugi ng kaunti basta makatulong lang tayo sa pag-open ng Puerto Princesa. Dapat ang rates na ito ay very attractive,” he said.

He also urged city residents to go out and patronize the local establishments in order to help them make their business while there are still no tourists arriving in the city.

“Tayo lang muna ang mag patronize ng mga establishments na yan. Makakarating sa ibang mga tao na nagpaplano na magpunta dito,” he said.


Cash strapped

Asked if the city government is prepared to offer measures to help businesses recover from their losses during the pandemic, Bayron admitted that the city government is in no position to offer financial assistance due to its budget limitations.

“Sa ngayon wala pa talaga tayong ganoon, mga loans, para sa mga ganoon. Napunta nga kasi sa COVID response, para sa mga LSI (locally stranded individuals),” he said.

He also pointed out that the city had employed tourism workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

“We have been employing those na nawalan ng trabaho, katulad ng mga tour guide, at pati na rin ang mga job order employees ng city,” he said.


Anticipating future threats from COVID-19

Bayron said that the city government is forming new guidelines that will minimize the risk of COVID-19 infections as it opens its economy, including strengthening of its current health safety protocols such as the wearing of face masks, face shields.

“Ini-expect ko na pag open na (local economy), may darating na may infection. Kaya mahalaga na may protocol. Pero yun lang ang paraan para harapin ang problema,” he said.

“Sa ginawa nating protocols, walang quarantine sa kanila (tourists and visitors),” Dr. Dean Palanca of the City Health Office said. He added that the city will employ the use of antigen tests “para masiguro na wala silang dalang virus.”

He pointed out that the city government is ensuring to add more “Covid Marshalls” in establishments and public places to ensure compliance to health protocols.

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