In picturesque Port Barton, once a throbbing beach and nature destination off the beaten tracks of San Vicente, some 200 businesses that used to thrive from tourism are struggling for survival.
“Sobra ang epekto ng COVID-19 dito sa Port Barton. Maraming nawalan ng trabaho, walang negosyo. Pinaka-inaasahan po kasi ang turismo,” Melvin Ballesteros, a barangay kagawad, recently told Palawan News.
Ballesteros described the condition of the village’s 7,000 population as “desperate”.
“Wala talaga. Minsan ang iba ay umaasa na lang doon sa ayuda na ibinibigay sa kanila o kaya nagbebenta ng mga pagkain kasi wala talaga,” he said.
Many, he said, are trying to find income from alternative livelihoods such as selling of food and farm products.
He said that businesses catering to tourists are trying to hold on until the village is able to receive once again the influx of tourists.
“Kahit naman magbukas sila, wala pa ring flight kaya wala pa rin,” he said.
He noted that several establishments tried to open by offering take out food, only to realize it wasn’t sustainable.
“Noong una kasi ganoon ang ginagawa ng mga restaurant dito, take out lang pero wala pa rin, walang tao,” he said.
He said that their hopes have been raised by Palawan’s downgrading into a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
“Ngayon na medyo maluwag na dahil MGCQ na ay magbubukas na ang mga establishments pero hinihintay pa namin ang guidelines sa pag-operate,” Ballesteros added.
Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez has been batting for the resumption of commercial domestic flights to Palawan in a bid to inject life into the province’s struggling tourism sector.
Alvarez said Palawan is ready to accommodate local tourists.
“In order to prime again the local tourism kailangan buksan natin ang airport,” Alvarez said last week.
The city government, meanwhile, has remained opposed to the immediate opening of its airport, fearing a potential spread of COVID-19.