The coronavirus phenomenon is proving to be the most serious health threat the country has faced in recent years. While the situation of Palawan is relatively normal, having no reported incidence, it is no less vulnerable than any place where there are human to human interaction.
For the province, the challenge to contain the spread of the virus goes along hand with the need to cushion its impact on the local economy.
Palawan’s tourism sector, an important component of the local economy, has been hit hard since the virus scare began two months ago. Travel restrictions have slowed down tourism in places like Coron and El Nido and in the city’s main attractions. Initial estimates indicate that tourist arrivals in these places are presently down by about half.
The scenario suggests a pervasive negative effect not only on the tourism sector but the economy as a whole. At least in the initial term, it is fair to conclude that Palawan’s tourism and the rest of the local economy are on a downtrend with no clear indication when it will stop.
The present health crisis poses to Palawan the challenge of resiliency and preparedness. Preparedness requires that the province is capable of managing a probable scenario of contamination. This includes the availability of facilities for isolation and medical support.
On the part of the tourism sector, resilience will require the capability to absorb medium-term losses and confront long-term difficulties.
Even at this point, the COVID-19 virus has already defined a new normal on how Palawan’s tourism may conduct its affairs. Reduced travel equates to revenue losses and puts into test the viability of small players in the industry.
There also remains uncertainty whether things will go back to normal and the virus will blow away and business, as usual, will take place. It is indeed an appropriate time to rechart a new direction for Palawan’s tourism and embrace new realities, harsh as they are.