Coron photo by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has expressed support for Coron’s sustainable tourism development to draw more visitors and hasten tourism recovery although there remains a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement released on March 5, the tourism department said Coron’s recovery plans will be supported under the Sustainable Tourism Development Project (STDP) which will be launched this year and will run until 2026.

“Giving our recovery plans for Coron a major boost is the Sustainable Tourism Development Project or STDP, which will be launched this year and will run throughout 2026,” Tourism Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said during the dialogue with stakeholders on March 04, banking on the leadership of Mayor Marjo Reyes, local industry captains, and community beacons to provide the impetus for this high-impact project.

The STDP is an initiative under the Transforming Communities Towards Resilient, Inclusive, and Sustainable Tourism (TouRIST) program of the DOT, the statement said.

The STDP, a collaboration among the DOT, the provincial government of Palawan, the municipalities of Coron and El Nido, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is aimed at making Coron and El Nido’s tourism development sustainable and inclusive. 

A five-year project to commence by the third quarter of this year, the major components include urban infrastructure, ecosystems improvement, and enterprise development.

For Coron, urban infrastructure projects will include water supply, sewerage system, drainage improvements and urban beautification. The ecosystems component will focus on the restoration of four key ecotourism sites, capacity building for marine protected area (MPA) management and alternative livelihoods.

“The STDP will help build the capacity of local stakeholders to protect and conserve Coron’s natural beauty and biodiversity and ensure that tourism benefits the local communities,” Puyat said further in the statement. 

Meanwhile, the DOT has vowed to continue providing technical assistance in the areas of product development, marketing and promotions and capacity building for both the local government and tourism workers.

The DOT has conducted rigid inspections and regularly monitors its accredited accommodation establishments (AEs) to ensure that minimum health and safety protocols are enforced.  As of February 15, 2021, a total of 20 AEs have been accredited.

As part of the Bayanihan 2 program, the DOT has partnered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to extend Cash Assistance to affected tourism workers.  For Coron, a total of 34 enterprises with 740 workers received their benefits amounting to ₱3,700,000.00 as of March 2, 2021.

Puyat said in the statement that for more affected workers to benefit from the program, local government and tourism enterprises should help facilitate the issuance of documentary requirements.

“We hope that this financial aid from the government will help get our tour guides, tour operators, and other displaced tourism workers back on their feet,” Puyat added.

Likewise, with the decision to still require RTPCR tests before travel, the DOT’s partnership with the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) will continue to boost local travel with the 50 percent subsidy program.

Coron prides itself on being almost COVID-free, which is a positive pull factor for visitors to enjoy the many beautiful white sand beaches, large limestone cliffs, endemic terrestrial wildlife, and rich marine ecosystem. It is home to Kayangan Lake, touted as the cleanest lake in the country. 

Often cited in many lists of top dive spots in the world, its main draw is the World War II Japanese wrecks as well as the other fun dive spots. 

Coron is a top destination for both international and local travellers. In 2019, Palawan welcomed 1,987,605 visitors, 15 percent or a total of 292,549 of which visited Coron.

Coron has attracted some 2,900 visitors since it reopened on 01 December 2020.