Mainstream business groups in Palawan belonging to the tourism and hospitality sector have bonded together to call for the resumption of commercial travel to Puerto Princesa City by early December, specifically on December 8 as stated in a petition they have addressed to City Mayor Lucilo Bayron.

They are urging the city government to put in place a robust health security protocol in lieu of the present quarantine regulations that they see as a disincentive to leisure travel and cut off the local economy from its national domestic market. They have asked for a specific early date for the opening, if only to allow them an opportunity to plan for promotional activities and similar enterprise initiatives as the Christmas season begins.

Since the start of the pandemic, they have quantified losses to the local economy in terms of at least 15,000 jobs from their sector alone. No doubt that such impact has had far-reaching consequences on the industry, such that its stakeholders are raising concerns about irreversible losses of their sector  unless the economy is re-opened soon.

How much longer can this sector try to ride the pandemic crisis depends mainly on each of the establishment’s financial resilience . Recently, The Legend Hotel, one of the first upscale hotels ever established in Palawan, announced its closure. The company’s decision had preceded many other smaller industry players’ forced moves.

The city government has tried to drum up the economy if at least to encourage locals to spend their money and spur local trade activity , even setting aside some amount for COVID-19 response , which while addressing important health concerns, is inconceivably different from a stimulus package that ideally should be in place. It is simply that the size of the local economy is perhaps too small that it cannot survive by itself in a bubble.

That the petition sought to convey a sense of urgency with words describing their sector “a dying industry” reflects the desperate sentiments of its stakeholders, something that policy makers cannot and should not simply brush aside.

The city government has yet to directly respond to the petition, as signed by members of Puerto Princesa Tour Operators Association (PPTOA), Association of Accredited Tourist Accommodations of Puerto Princesa (AATAPP), Association of Accredited Tour Operator of PPC Palawan Philippines (AATOPPPP), and Association of Travel Agencies & Allied Tourism Establishments of Palawan, Inc. (ATAATEPI).

The action to this, if any, requires a sensitive balancing act on the part of the policy makers, particularly the city and the provincial government, taking into account the common good. Whatever it may be, such policy direction needs to be on top of their priorities.