The world-famous Coron town in Palawan province is set to reopen tourism, as approved by the municipal inter-agency task force (IATF), gradually leading up to opening its doors to the rest of the country by December.
With “unthinkable” income loss brought by the coronavirus pandemic, Coron town mayor Mario T. Reyes Jr., in a phone interview on Sunday said that protocols set by the national agencies for tourism reopening will be strictly observed.
“Malaki, to tell you frankly ayoko na nga isipin kasi kung iniisip ko ‘yon kung saan-saan lumilipad ang isip ko,” Reyes said.
The Coron tourism office on Saturday announced that town residents may enjoy the picturesque islands of Coron starting October 26. By November 16, locals from the Calamian Islands Group, composed of the municipalities of Coron, Busuanga, Culion, and Linapacan, would be allowed to visit. Domestic travels from around the Philippines were temporarily penned to start on December 1.
“Hinihintay natin ang approval ng regional IATF. Once na aprubahan na tayo, ang susunod natin ipre-prepare ang airport natin. We have to meet with airlines, and of course, ‘yong business establishments. Ready na ba kayo to open up? Mayroon na ba kayong DOT accreditation?” explained Reyes about how local officials are preparing to revive the industry.
Sofia antigen test kits for detecting COVID-19 antibodies were acquired by the municipal government on October 7. With at least a 96.7 percent sensitivity rate of infection detection, the local health officials strengthened its efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has seen a significant increase in its active cases in early August.
“Ang antigen test ay may 96.7 % sensitivity rate at malaking tulong para sa ating mga frontliners na maagang matukoy ang mga taong may COVID-19, ng sa ganoon ay agarang maisagawa ang isolation upang hindi na makapanghawa pa, hanggang sa gumaling,” an earlier statement from Coron information office read.
Reyes added, however, that this is still pending because they are awaiting for the approval from the Department of Health (DOH), which is the key element on its tourism reopening bid.
“Ang pinaka importante dyan ‘yong approval o permit na manggagaling sa Department of Health kung pinapayagan na tayo para mag-operate ng ating antigen test, ‘yon ang pinaka bottom line. Dalawa lang naman yan, payagan tayo o hindi. Kapag yan pinayagan tayo, ‘yon ang susi,” Reyes said.
Local business establishments are now seeking Certificate of Authority to Operate (CATO) from the Department of Tourism (DOT), as well as other necessary permits from the municipal government, prior to the town’s tourism reopening.
“Ang iba mayroon na accreditation pero mostly wala eh kaya nag-aapply pa lang sila,” Reyes added.
There are 11 active cases in this town, out of the total 75 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with two casualties, as of Saturday evening.
(With reports from Patricia Laririt and Ruth Rodriguez)