(Updated) – The plan to reopen the high-end El Nido Resorts in northern Palawan to tourists is an idea being pushed by tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, more as a test case on how may tourism establishments operate under a “new normal” environment.

Palawan Provincial Tourism Promotions and Development officer (PTPDO) Maribel Buñi told Palawan News the DOT has been exploring this with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and with the Ayala-owned El Nido Resorts.

Buñi said that Secretary Puyat is proposing to conduct a “dry run” involving the resort establishment, but denied a report published in a national daily that such dry run has already started.

“It was Sec. Berna [Puyat] who proposed na baka puwede nang mag-dry run ang El Nido Resorts,” said Buñi.

Buñi said that the management of El Nido Resorts will present a plan to the Sangguniang Bayan on July 13. Puyat earlier said safety measures will be in place to eliminate the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the town.

“If ok na, July 17 ang dry run or July 24 (on weekends daw), depende sa mapag-agree-han ng lahat,” Buñi said.

Buni explained that the idea to allow El Nido Resorts to reopen was not to grant the company exclusivity but because they have the capacity to operate under new normal guidelines.

“Gusto ko lang i-clarify na hindi dahil sa El Nido Resorts gaganapin ang dry run, exclusive ‘yon sa kanila. They have a Certificate of Authority to Operate (CAO) from the DOT as a requirement under new normal guidelines. It is also because may unique feature sila na puwede nilang dalhin ang guests from the airport to island resort without passing by El Nido town. At doon sa islands, isolated sila doon,” she added.

She said that El Nido Resorts is capable to operate under DOT Memorandum Circular 2020-02, also known as the new normal guidelines for accommodation establishments.

She added that DOT Undersecretary Arturo Boncato will be coordinating with the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on allowing tourists to travel to Palawan, which is still prohibited under the IATF omnibus guidelines.

“Tatanungin pa ni Usec. Art [Boncato] kung puwede bang i-allow ang leisure travel kasi under nga ng omnibus guidelines, bawal po iyon. Ang mga magiging turista naman, kailangan ay negative sila sa RT-PCR tests bago sila makapag-travel from Manila to El Nido,” said Buñi.

The resort group, comprising of four luxury island resorts, is also a sister company of AirSwift, the only commercial airline in El Nido that also operates the only airport in the municipality. All are subsidiary companies of the Ayala group, one of the country’s largest conglomerates.