El Nido file photo by Celeste Anna Formoso

The tourism department’s full implementation of the Sustainable Tourism Development Project (STDP) will endeavor to ensure the resiliency of El Nido town in Palawan as a prime destination this year. 

In a press statement issued Saturday (March 6), Department of Tourism (DOT) Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat was quoted in saying this Friday (March 5) as she visited El Nido for the awarding of certificates to beneficiaries of the Cash-For-Work and Financial Assistance Program in partnership with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“Like all initiatives of the DOT, it will need the cooperation and collaboration from our partners in government and the private sector to ensure its success. I hope that the DOT can continue to count on your support to power our common journey to recovery and realize better normal for the tourism sector, not only in Palawan but throughout the nation,” Puyat said of the project collaboration among the DOT, the Provincial Government of Palawan, the Municipalities of Coron and El Nido, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Puyat said in the statement that the STDP, an initiative under the DOT’s Transforming Communities Towards Resilient, Inclusive, and Sustainable Tourism (TouRIST) program, aims to make El Nido’s tourism development more sustainable and inclusive.

The projects will focus on improving the town’s Drainage; Solid Waste (Landfill Development); Ecosystem-Based Tourism Site Management; and Enterprise and Skills Development from 2021 to 2026.

During her visit, Puyat recalled her first trip to El Nido on July 3, 2020, to pilot test the health and safety protocols in its El Nido Resorts, one of the first tourism establishments in the town to secure authority to operate and reopen to visitors from outside the province through a travel bubble strategy.

The tourism chief returned to El Nido in late October 2020 to finalize details of the expansion of the province’s travel bubble to accommodate more domestic tourists, and to attend a dialogue with the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda to discuss a possible travel bubble between Japan and El Nido.

Later on November 30, 2020, El Nido finally announced its formal reopening to domestic tourists.

“I am happy to say that El Nido has been very cooperative in implementing the minimum health and safety standards recommended by the Department of Health and the DOT. I would like to commend the stakeholders who have understood and prioritized the safety of tourists even during this crisis, enabling them to pass the DOT’s accreditation standards,” the tourism chief shared.

Puyat added that a total of 63 accommodation establishments passed the health and safety standards of the Department and have been duly accredited as of Feb. 15, 2021.

Puyat said the DOT shall continue its close coordination with other national government agencies such as the DOLE to fulfill provisions of the Bayanihan To Recover As One act or BAYANIHAN 2 and to provide sustained Covid-19 response and support to heavily affected tourism stakeholders in destinations like El Nido.

The DOT has endorsed a total of 20,621 tourism workers in MIMAROPA for the Cash for Work Program conducted in partnership with DOLE.

As of March 02, 6,846 workers in Palawan have received financial assistance amounting to PHP34,230,000, and 1,315 of which are from El Nido.

The tourism chief disclosed that with the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine in the country, the DOT is optimistic that tourism workers in destinations like El Nido, Palawan will be prioritized in the government’s vaccination program, after medical front-liners and senior citizens.

“Dumating na ang vaccine natin, finally. Ang inuuna syempre, mga doctor at mga matatanda o elderly. Pero noong cabinet meeting naming with Presidente last Wednesday, hiningi talaga namin na maging priority ang tourism front-liners. Kasi ang tourism, kahit hindi nag tatrabaho sa quarantine hotels, kayo pa rin ang front-liners. Kayo ang humaharap sa mga tao. So pinangako nila, as soon as matapos na yung mga doctors at mga elderly, mauuna na yung turismo,” (The vaccines are here, finally. The doctors, seniors are the priority. But during our Cabinet meeting with the President on Wednesday, we asked to also prioritize our tourism front-liners, although tourism is not part of quarantine hotels, you are the one dealing with people. They promised that after the doctors and seniors, tourism (workers) will be next), she shared.