The Department of Tourism and provincial government’s push to gradually reopen tourism in Northern Palawan has received varied reactions from local stakeholders.
Several individuals in the business sector favor the plan, stating a need to strike a balance between addressing the pandemic and restarting the tourism economy of the place.
Conrado David, president of the El Nido Chamber of Commerce, expressed support to the move.
“Iba-iba ang mindset ng tao. Some people want a progressive town, some are satisfied with what they want, some simply comment but at the end of the day sino ang responsable sa economy natin? Ang gobyerno pa rin, what we can do is to follow” David said.
“Government has to balance between health and economy,” San Vicente businessman Tonino Habana told Palawan News.
He said that what is important is that tourists who will be arriving should have medical clearance to avoid the possibility of spreading the coronavirus in the places they are visiting.
“The suggestion of DOT to have the local tourists tested before travel provides safeguards. Hirap ang residents ng San Vicente and they need to generate income or people will starve,“ Habana said.
“Pabor ako d’yan pero dapat higpitan ang pagpasok swab test muna, “ Ani Arvic Parcon, also a local businessman, said.
DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat has been pushing for a gradual reopening, starting with El Nido Resorts as a test case where it may be allowed to receive tourists coming from Manila under strict health regulations and protocol.
Many El Nido residents have expressed indifference to the plan, including several local and small business owners.
Opposition from locals
Most netizens active in social media have criticized the plan, including key local businessmen and stakeholders.
Benly Lim, president of the Bacuit El Nido Travel and Tours Operators Association, urged that the government’s attention should be on addressing the local health and livelihood situation.
“Mas nauna pang nabigyan ng focus ang ideya ng pagbubukas at hindi sa ‘health protocol’ at solusyunan ang panibagong hanapbuhay,” Lim told Palawan News.
Lim specifically asked for help in facilitating the requirements of MARINA to allow presently unutilized tourist boats to be used for fishing.
“Tulungan nila kami sa MARINA para sa re-routing muna ng mga boat para magamit sa pangingisda. Ang farmland, tulungan nila para bumaba rin muna ang cost of living,” he said.
He noted that the shortage of food supply during the pandemic has raised local prices because the town had not been producing its own.
“Kasi noong tourist time, wala nang nagtatanim at nangingisda kaya nagmahal ang bilihin dito,“ Lim said.
“Health muna ng tao saka na ang turismo. Mabubuhay naman tayo kahit wala pa ‘yan. Tanim at padami muna ng food supply,” another local businessman added.
San Vicente Councilor Ramir Pablico said the government’s attention should focus first on their health system.
“Para sa akin sa ngayon ay hindi ako pabor. Kulang pa ang capacity ng ating LGU. Kulang mga tao natin sa health at mga isolation facilities,“ Pablico said.
Lilibeth Uapal, a local nurse called for the improvement of the local health facility as a priority.
“Kulang pa rin ang kagamitan para sa rapid at swab test. Malaki ang dagok ng pandemya sa turismo, pero ‘wag naman puro kita palagi ang ating isipin,” Uapal said.
Amor Fulgarinas, a teacher, argued it is possible to develop the local economy without having to open borders and risk a virus spread.
“Palagay ko, kaya nating mabuhay ng tayo-tayo lang muna at walang taga ibang lugar na makakapasok. ‘Wag naman sana nating hintayin na maapektuhan ang kalusugan ng marami bago pa tayo magising,“ Fulgarinas said.
“Parang hindi pa advisable knowing na dumadami ang cases ng virus sa atin, pero if ang government na ang magsabi, we just need to abide sa minimum health standard na i-set nila,“ added P/Captain Rodolfo Labayo Jr.