The city government of Puerto Princesa will be holding an invite-only Christmas event at the Balayong People’s Park on December 1, which will have a musical firework display, a concert, and a Christmas Tree Lighting.
The event will also include the commissioning of the Interactive Water Park, one of the key features of Balayong Park. It will also be broadcast on Facebook live for those who cannot physically attend the event, while some will be allowed to watch the fireworks display in designated parking spots.
City administrator Atty. Arnel Pedrosa said in a phone interview on Wednesday that while the event aims to promote the local tourism industry to Palawan-based tourists, the event is not a signifier that the local industry will formally re-open on December 1. He added that they are still finalizing protocols and dates for Palawan-based tourists, as the opening to outsiders is still out of the question due to the city’s current COVID-19 situation.
“Initiatory step ‘yan ng city government para by March or April ay maski papaano, puwede na tayong tumanggap ng tourists outside Palawan. Pero, itong event, ay para naman ang mga local tourists can come [to Puerto Princesa],” he said.
Pedrosa added that the city government is still deciding on which current protocols should be relaxed in Puerto Princesa to encourage local tourists to visit, such as the liquor ban and the current closure of bars, clubs, and theatres.
“We will come to that, kasi December 1 pa naman ‘yan. Mahirap na baka magbago pa ang situation natin. Wait and see pa rin, basta nakalatag ‘yan, basta by December 1, kung maging better ang situation, dire-diretso na ‘yan,” he added.
Pedrosa added that city mayor Lucilo Bayron may be keen on reopening to outsiders if the city reaches the 50% vaccination target.
Meanwhile, Puerto Princesa tourism stakeholders are calling for a dry run in December to test a tourism bubble setup to prepare for the eventual reopening to tourists outside Palawan. A petition signed by business owners, managers, and representatives of the sector also stated that the other tourism destinations, such as El Nido, San Vicente, Coron, Boracay, and Baguio are already accepting outsiders even while still rolling out their vaccinations. Stakeholders added that the industry cannot survive on local tourists alone and that many front-line tourism workers have already depleted finances due to the long lockdown.