A view of the landscape in Coron going up Kayangan Lake. | Photo by Palawan Provincial Information Office

The Palawan Tourism Council (PTC) remains optimistic that domestic tourists will still visit the province despite the sudden uptake in new cases nationwide, but still urges tourists to follow all existing health protocols to avoid spreading COVID-19 in the province.

According to PTC Rey Felix Rafols, ensuring the safety of tourists and locals will depend on how responsible the tourist will be when it comes to entering Palawan.

“Optimistic tayo na tuloy-tuloy tayo [sa turismo]. Pero ang sinasabi natin sa lahat, dapat ‘yong traveler will be responsible for their safety and know the protocols, hindi lang ‘yong LGU (local government unit), hindi lang ‘yong mga tourism establishments, but work hand in hand with the tourist,” he said in an interview Friday.

“We are ready here in Palawan, sure na ready tayo dahil maganda ang track record ng Palawan at Puerto Princesa sa COVID cases. Ready rin ang mga establishments kasi you can only check in sa mga DOT-accredited establishments which have safety protocols. So dapat ang travelers, tama rin ang safety protocols nila,” he added.

Rafols added that the three-day virtual Palawan Travel Expo held March 15-17, where local establishments and tourism sites offered promos and discounts for tourists, was a success due to high participation online.

“Ginawa nating March 15 to remind everyone that it has been a year already noong naapektuhan ang lahat [ng pandemic]. Nag-focus kami sa safety ng lahat, how they will be able to travel around Palawan,” Rafols said.

The country recorded 7,103 new cases on Friday, the highest number ever recorded since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. This has prompted national officials to bring back tighter restrictions in Metro Manila, and even issued a travel ban on foreign nationals to the country from March 22 to April 21. However, foreign diplomats, returning overseas workers, and those with special permits to enter the country may still enter the country. 

The expo was held to promote tourist destinations in the municipalities to domestic tourists through a series of video presentations and discounts for selected establishments all through livestreaming. Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who visited Puerto Princesa on March 4, also encouraged the reopening of all Palawan’s destinations, citing the great loss of income brought about by the global pandemic.

Travel restrictions in Palawan ports of entry, such as Puerto Princesa City, San Vicente, Busuanga, and El Nido have remained relaxed to encourage domestic tourism. The City Tourism Office also stated that they hope to receive guests traveling during the Lenten season, which is the first week of April.