Puerto Princesa Underground River. (File photo)

Tourism officials in Puerto Princesa are ready to welcome domestic tourists beginning Wednesday, ensuring that all visitors observe the City Tourism Office’s (CTO) travel bubble standards.

CTO chief Demetrio Alvior, Jr. said that his office has made all preparations to assure that only lodgings, travel agencies, community-based sustainable tourism sites (CBSTs), and island tour operators would be authorized to accommodate guests from outside Palawan starting December 8.

“Ready na tayo to accept pagdating sa tourism,” he said in an interview on Monday, December 6.

He stated, however, that the success of the reopening still depends on the compliance of Puerto Princesa residents. He noted that vaccination among the city’s population is still relatively low compared to that of Metro Manila, where the domestic tourists will be coming from.

“’Yong sa health protocols natin, hindi tayo one hundred per cent sure. Kasi hindi natin nakikita ang pandemic. ’Yong sa vaccination, hindi pa tayo herd immunity, ‘di natin naabot [bago nagkaroon ng reopening],” he added.

How the tourism bubble works
Alvior also gave an overview of how the tourism bubble will work in Puerto Princesa City. He explained that a tourist must book through an accredited accommodation or travel agency certified by the CTO. The guest will then be given a travel package that will only allow them to move through certain areas of the city.

Alvior explained that each package has been checked by the CTO, making sure that all stopovers that will be done with tourists have fully-vaccinated staff and have proper health and sanitation facilities. Tourists can still take the City Tour and visit local sites such as Baker’s Hill and the Crocodile Farm.

“Puwede naman silang lumabas [ng mga sasakyan] nila. Kunwari, bibili sila ng souvenirs, pero doon lang sa accredited sa travel bubble. Kasi iche-check pa namin ang mga ‘yan kung vaccinated ba ang mga staff,” he said.

Tourists will also not be allowed to roam freely outside their accommodations. If they wish to go somewhere, they must be accompanied by their tour guide and transport provider at all times. For errands, this can be done through a “pasuyo system,” or asking hotel staff to do errands on their behalf.

So far, according to Alvior, there are a total of 16 accommodations that have been certified by the CTO to accept guests and offer tourism bubble packages. The office is also currently conducting inspections with local tourism sites and CBSTs to see if they are ready to accept domestic tourists.

“Hindi lahat puwedeng tumanggap ng tourists kasi ang mga iba hindi puwede ang facilities nila. Ang iba, hindi pa fully vaccinated ang mga staff.So far, ok na ‘yong Baker’s Hill, Cowrie Island. ‘Yong Mitra’s Ranch iche-check pa. ‘Yong Butterfly Garden nga lang hindi pa raw sila ready, kasi hindi pa naaayos ang ibang structures nila,” said Alvior.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.