Boat operators who used to cater to tourists that visit Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa City. (Photo courtesy of USAID)

The city government of Puerto Princesa is set to gradually re-open its tourism industry under the new normal with an initial P205 million budget, preparing plans to ensure the safe and efficient resumption of this industry which was heavily-affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Aileen Cynthia Amurao, chief tourism officer, in a press statement issued by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) on Thursday, discussed the city’s tourism recovery strategies focusing on the prevention of local transmission by putting in place strict health and safety protocols in tourism establishments and ensuring safety nets for displaced tourism workers.

With an initial budget of P205 million, the Tourism Reopening and Recovery Plan (TRRP), one of the pre-requisites of the Department of Tourism (DOT) prior to the reopening of tourist destinations, was presented to the local tourism industry stakeholders.

The COVID-19 response fund will implement stringent measures to prevent community transmission as the city gears to welcome tourists. The city government is set to test arriving tourists with its COVID-19 laboratory at the Ospital Ng Palawan (ONP).

Tourism reopening strategy is divided into three phases: the first phase will allow tourism-related establishments to cater to locals living in the city and in Palawan province; the second phase will allow the entry of travelers from other low-risk regions and provinces; and the third and final stage will allow the entry of all other local and foreign tourists to the city subject to government-mandated health and safety standards.

The programs and projects described in the TRRP are included in the city’s COVID-19 economic response and recovery plan as well as the Annual Investment Program for 2021. USAID assisted the city in the formulation of the TRRP and its COVID-19 economic response and recovery plan.

Since 2016, USAID has been providing technical assistance to the city’s tourism industry in crafting a Tourism Development Plan (TDP) and tourism brand, in enhancing the operations of its community-based sustainable tourism sites (CBST) and launching the city’s nature-based tourism attractions.