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Tourism businesses in Palawan are asking the city government to commit to a December 8 re-opening of travel to the province, in order to save what they described was a “dying” local tourism industry and to keep up with the present status of other key tourist destinations in the country that have already re-opened.

“We would like to appeal for the second phase of the tourism re-opening plan to be effective by December 8,” a petition addressed to Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron signed by various tourism stakeholder groups in the province stated.

The petition was signed by members of the Puerto Princesa Tour Operators Association (PPTOA), Association of Accredited Tourist Accommodations of Puerto Princesa (AATAPP), Association of Accredited Tour Operator of PPC Palawan Philippines (AATOPPPP), and Association of Travel Agencies & Allied Tourism Establishments of Palawan, Inc. (ATAATEPI).

With an opening date set, the establishments asked that they be granted permission to start marketing efforts “as early as 1st week of December.”

With travel to Palawan remaining under strict quarantine protocols still requiring travelers to undergo quarantine procedures, private establishments have expressed concern about the viability of their businesses.

“The reality is businesses are already dying,” the group stated in their petition dated November 18.

The group asked the city government to adopt a set of recommendations and a specific course of action that includes, among others, coordination with airlines and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), advising the Department of Tourism (DOT) of the re-opening date for the possible marketing, technical and financial support, and approval of a safe pass QR code contact tracing app for local government units (LGUs) as endorsed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

“We believe that we can fast-track recovery through a closer partnership between the private sector and the LGUs,” they stated in the petition.

The group estimates that their sector losses due to the pandemic have already accounted for the displacement of around 15,000 tourism and tourism-related workers in the industry throughout Palawan, with over P100 million in job incomes lost.

They noted that Puerto Princesa City and Palawan are lagging behind other major tourist spots that have already opened to tourists outside of their immediate vicinity, listing among them Batangas, Puerto Galera, Tagaytay, Clark, and Subic.

“Although we have been serving some Palawan-based tourists since June, ‘it is simply not enough’ to keep our businesses afloat,” the group stated.

On November 20, The Legend Hotel Palawan, one of the most iconic hospitality institutions in Puerto Princesa City and Palawan, marked the end of its 21-year service for reasons including the crisis brought by the pandemic.

“We are most concerned about our staff and we want to be able to continue providing adequate support to them and their families,” the petition stated.