The Department of Tourism’s (DOT) plans to open inter-regional tourism in the “safest way” is making headways, said Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

Puyat said this Friday while virtually addressing the private sectors, government officials and representatives, individuals, and major stakeholders who attended the 2020 Tourism Appreciation and Recognition Day via Zoom.

She said people will be looking out for recreational outlets that combine nature and wellness.

Alongside farm tourism, Puyat said the dive industry will help posture economic development amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, considering Palawan’s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is continuously putting the Philippines on the world diving map.

“We can [assure] travelers that inter-regional travel can be done safely, responsively, and sustainably,” Puyat said.

“I have no doubt that the dive industry will help posture economic development — the wonderful dive sites that Palawan has — are continuously helping put the Philippines in the diving map. Of course, Tubattaha Reef is well known for its success stories, Apo Reef in Mindoro is popular, and less known dive sites in Marinduque and Romblon are just waiting to be discovered,” she added.

Since March, the coronavirus disease has taken a heavy toll on the country’s bankable tourism industry. To revive it, the DOT has eyed the implementation of travel bubbles to allow the movement of travelers from regions with less COVID-19 cases.

Puyat said with groundworks already starting to revitalize the country’s travel industry, leisure activities can begin again as soon as everything has been finalized.

On this, Governor Jose Alvarez said in the same event that despite the huge impact of COVID-19, the provincial government will ensure economic sustainability among tourism stakeholders in Palawan.

He also encouraged the entire tourism industry in the MIMAROPA region to remain optimistic amid the pandemic.

“Through our dynamic collaboration and decisive measures, we have adopted policies that will provide safety nets to our tourism sector, ensuring that they are involved in our recovery efforts,” he said.

“May this event be a symbol of our unwavering commitment to advance our tourism industry, alongside other sectors, despite the pandemic. May the color ‘pink’ inspire us to remain optimistic in our undertakings and always look at life in a positive and radiant manner,” Alvarez added.

The event awarded the following with plaques of appreciation for standing up against COVID-19 and for continuously supporting government efforts on tourism under the Bayanihan Act to Heal as One:

  • Puerto Princesa City, the towns of Busuanga, Coron, El Nido, and San Vicente were recognized by the tourism department through its municipal and city tourism offices.
  • El Nido for being voted as one of the Best Travel Destinations by TripAdvisor and Huffpost and cited by Conde Nast Traveler for its Hidden beach as one of the best beach in the world.
  • Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) for consistently making it as Traveler’s Choice by the TripAdvisor, world’s travel largest platform.
  • The city government of Puerto Princesa and provincial government of Palawan for consistently producing the highest number of DOT-accredited tourism enterprises and frontliners.
  • Palawan government for the World’s Best Island by Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards for 2020 award.
  • Former DOT OTSR Director Rebecca Villanueva Labit for her DOT-accreditation campaign in Puerto Princesa City as the former council and city tourism officer.

For the government agencies in Palawan, awarded were:

  • Bureau of Immigration (BI)-Puerto Princesa City
  • Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP)-Puerto Princesa City

For the private sector are:

  • Lio Airport Management
  • Yoshi Ohtsoka, dive instructor of Palawan Divers in El Nido
  • El Nido Chamber of Commerce for launching Task Force Salangga, the program that aims to help the municipal tourism office in the information campaign.
  • Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) El Nido for its Tandikan project which is active in Community Based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) program.
  • Sitel Company-Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) for the establishment of its branch in El Nido during the pandemic to employ displaced tourism workers.

Four outstanding awards for tourism association, recognized were:

  • The Association of Travel Agencies and Allied Tourism Enterprises in Puerto Princesa (ATAATEPP)
  • Association of Accredited Tourist Accommodation of Puerto Princesa (AATAPP)
  • Palawan Tourism Council (PTC)
  • Calamianes Association of Tourism Establishments (CATE).

For the plaque of recognition for international and national awards and citations received for excellence in the delivery of tourism services:

  • Loreto Montana, utility worker in the municipal government of Palawan who returned a lost bag with ATM card and P50,000 cash.
  • Charmaine Rhoda Montana, Busuanga tourism staff who also returned a bag with P100,000 owned by a tourist from Bulacan.
  • Jose Ernadio, a tourist van driver in Busuanga who returned a bag with a laptop, cellphone, and cash left by foreign guests amounting to P500,000.
  • PSMS Rocelle Ramos Mayo, a police officer assigned in Busuanga for returning a wallet with P10,000 to Fernando Mazo.
  • Peter Collings, author and owner of D’ Pearl Bay Busuanga who published a book entitled “Shipwrecks of D’ Pearl Bay” featuring the shipwrecks around the Calamianes Group of Island.
  • The Funny Lion, an accommodation in Coron town for its community initiative with Advancement for Rural Kids (ARK).

Other awardees were the Philippine Coast Guard, 2GO Shipping, Airswift, Montenegro Shipping, Starhorse shipping, Starlight shipping, Bayay Sibuyanon Romblon, towns of Marinduque and Mindoro.

The appreciation and recognition day had the theme “Pink Life: Nurture, Forster, and Understand amid the pandemic!”