El Nido closes borders, bans entry of even local tourists

An announcement by the El Nido Muncipal Tourism Office (MTO) through their Facebook account, El Nido Tourism. | Photo from El Nido Tourism

The tourist town El Nido will not be accepting visitors beginning Thursday, April 29, until May 6 due to rising COVID-19 cases in the municipality, province, and the rest of the country.

The town has also experienced a sudden increase in local cases in April alone, many of whom are tourism workers and non-residents who work in the town.

According to an official announcement by the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO), an executive order issued by town mayor Edna Gacot-Lim is temporarily banning the entry of all types of tourists as a response to rising COVID-19 cases all over Palawan. The order adds that all tourists must contact their accommodations and other service providers for refunds, cancellations, and rebookings.

This is also the first time the town issued a suspension on the entry of tourists since their reopening to non-Palawan locals in November 2020. Both local and national government officials have pushed for the reopening of the local industry because of massive income losses due to the pandemic.

As of the El Nido Municipal Health Office’s latest tally, there were five active cases, four probable cases and a total of 17 reported cases since the beginning of the pandemic. According to the executive order, in April alone, a total of 12 new cases were recorded, the highest so far for the town in a set timeframe.

El Nido was closed to tourists outside Palawan after Airswift cancelled all of its flights in late March after the Greater Manila Area was placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ). The airline then started offering mercy flights for stranded individuals and other authorized persons only.

Tourists traveling from the Puerto Princesa City International Airport also could not enter the town because of a similar travel ban enacted by the city government. Flights in both airports remain suspended as both local government units (LGUs) have yet to lift their travel bans.

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