With a loss of roughly P5.45 billion in tourism since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began more than two years ago, this city’s main source of revenue is hoping for a comeback now that travel restrictions have been eased.
In a live press briefing on February 17, lawyer Norman Yap, spokesman for the City Inter-Agency Task Force (City IATF), said tourists will no longer just be allowed to stay for only a maximum of four days. They can stay longer
The airline capacity restrictions have also been lifted, with unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travelers not required to undergo quarantine, but only if they will be allowed to enter the airport or seaport premises of their origin.
“Assuming they will be allowed entry at the airport or seaport because of the ‘no vax no ride’ policy of the Department of Tourism (DOT), unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travelers will be required to present an RT-PCR negative test result within two days prior to travel. (Assuming lang na papayagan kayo sa airport o sa pantalan, gawa nang may policy ang ating Department of Transportation sa ‘no vax no ride’ policy, assuming lang kung papayagan silang mag-board, hihingiin naming ang RT-PCR negative test results na kinuha two days prior to travel),” Yap said.
Dr. Dean Palanca, incident commander of the Incident Management Team (IMT), previously pegged that active COVID-19 cases will be less than 100 by March this year, saying they are confident that it is the right time to relax travel measures and public health protocols.
“Local stakeholders, especially the business sector, will be happy that the third [COVID-19] surge is almost over. (At least matutuwa na ang iba nating mga stakeholders, lalo na ang business sector, na patapos na ang ating problema dito sa pangatlong surge natin),” Palanca added.
The Puerto Princesa City government has begun holding festivities this February, leading up to the Balayong Festival for the celebration of the city’s Foundation Day on March 4.
On March 4, the Foundation Day of Puerto Princesa, the day will begin with a Holy Mass at the Immaculate Concepcion Parish, to be followed by a Parade of Assets that will showcase the city government’s heavy equipment.
Several infrastructure projects, such as the wastewater treatment plant at the city baywalk, new bus and jeepney, and the new Police Station 2 (PS2) in Barangay Irawan, new enhanced satellite clinic for southern barangays, and the infinity pool at the city sports complex, will also be commissioned.
On February 28, a “slow drag race” will be held at the Balayong Park, which will showcase motorbikes and tricycles decorated with recyclable materials.
Activities at the Mendoza Park will be held with the Mobile Legends tournament on March 1, the coronation night for Binibining Seksi on March 2, and dance competition on March 3.
The rise of Balayong Park
Earth-balled “balayong” (Cassia nodosa) trees spared from the road-widening project by the city have been transplanted into a 73,461-square-meter park, intended to become the local version of Japan’s famous Sakura park.
Regarded as Palawan’s cherry blossoms, the trees bear light pink and white flowers. It takes up to five years to reach full maturity, and they are usually in full bloom from February to May.
The P250-million Balayong Park, which was first introduced in 2016, includes a tower view deck, waterpark, recreational and children’s parks, food complex, artists’ pavilion, among other facilities.
Inaugurated in July last year, but was only opened to the public in December 2021 due to health protocol restrictions imposed, the Balayong Park was developed as a green space where various outdoor activities could be held.
The city government intends to make the park a top tourist attraction for the city and as a viable alternative to the usual island hopping tours.
Puerto Princesa City mayor Lucilo Bayron previously said that because of the city’s growing population and tourists arrivals, there is also a growing need for larger outdoor spaces to accommodate leisure activities.
When the country was placed under lockdown in March 2020 and continued until its gradual easing of travel restrictions in October 2021, an estimated 24,000 tourism workers in Puerto Princesa City and Palawan had been reportedly displaced because of a lack of tourist arrivals, according to the tourism department.
From January to December 2020, Puerto Princesa City’s tourism loss was P5.45 billion, a steep 80 percent drop in revenue compared to the same period in 2019, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT). Tourist arrivals further dipped to 71,889 from 1,170,083 as lockdowns were declared and tourist destinations were forced to close after the pandemic struck in March of that year.