El Nido MTO chief Arvin Acosta in a meeting with tourism stakeholders held Friday (November 13). Contributed photo

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has proposed that El Nido should adopt some of the best practices done by other reopening tourist destinations for Phase 2 of its tourism reopening.

Despite DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat stating that the town would open to non-Palawan residents by November 1, the El Nido local government unit (LGU) has not yet released an advisory or order allowing so.

DOT regional director Engr. Chris Morales cited differing wants by each sector of the LGU as a possible cause for the delayed release of official guidelines.

In an interview with Palawan News on Monday, Morales said that during their scheduled inspection and meetings conducted in the town last week, he and his team recommended that the LGU adopt some measures used by other tourist destinations, namely Baguio and Ilocos, for the town’s reopening to non-Palawan tourists.

“Not necessarily to adopt, but to take a look at what Baguio and Ilocos did, and then tingnan kung ano applicable sa El Nido o ano ang hindi, more of benchmarking,” he said.

“We shared guidelines ng Baguio and Ilocos. For example, yung border points. Siyempre hindi lang yung Lio Airport ang dapat tingnan. Kung Palaweno, kailangan pang malaman kung turista o hindi. So kailangan ng isang tourist one-stop-center na hindi rin mukhang military checkpoint,” he added.

Morales further explained that the El Nido Municipal Tourism Office (MTO) originally wanted to follow the original plan of only allowing non-Palawan tourists into El Nido only if they would be staying at El Nido Resorts, a group of luxury island resorts owned by the Ayala Corporation due to their relatively isolated locations.

“MTO gusto talaga na bubble, ‘yong El Nido Resorts model. ‘Yong hindi maghahalo. Kumbaga na sealed ang lahat, mula airport, tour, at accommodation,” he added “EOC (Emergency Command Center) wanted both Lio Airport and Puerto Princesa City [International Airport]. Ang MTO just wanted Lio lang. Siguro hindi lang kasi sila nag-uusap as a whole. There should be just one person na puwedeng ipaintindi sa both sides ang isyu na ito.”

The El Nido LGU also proposed the use of their own QR-code scanning system that was reportedly developed by Palawan State University (PSU), according to Morales. However, during the meeting, tourism officials were unable to explain how tourists’ data would be protected and purged after use.

“Kailangan pa nilang ang mga privacy concerns, katulad na dapat after 30 days dapat ma-delete ang data, tsaka sino ba ang may access sa back-end, kasi dapat MTO lang, walang iba,” he said. “Mayroon namang data privacy clause, pero hindi lang malinaw ang ibang aspects nito.”