Bohol, Cebu look to tourism as way forward
MANILA - Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez called for the speedy rehabilitation of key tourist structures after Tuesday's 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Visayas, saying that the two hardest hit areas -- Bohol and Cebu -- need to attract more tourists so they can get back on their feet.
"It's back to work for the tourism industry because now more than ever, Bohol and Cebu need more tourism income to move forward from this unfortunate tragedy," Jimenez said in a statement released Thursday.
"We ought to find ways to speed up recovery of the affected areas, especially that tourism is a major industry fueling their economies," he added.
Several structures in Bohol and Cebu -- from hotels to churches and heritage sites -- were not spared by the powerful quake that rocked parts of Visayas and Mindanao last Tuesday.
According to the Department of Tourism's office in Central Visayas, most hotels, resorts and other business establishments in Cebu and Bohol have resumed operations.
It added that while some tours are still being carried out, a number of areas are off-limits to the public such as the Basilica del Sto. Nino and Fort San Pedro in Cebu, and the Baclayon Church and Daius Church in Bohol.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Commission of Culture and the Arts are assessing the extent of damage on cultural heritage sites.
While Jimenez understood that repairing heritage sites may take time, he said "reconstruction of damaged facilities in other attractions and transportation infrastructure should proceed with haste."
"Our Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority will help rehabilitate the view deck of the Chocolate Hills and other amenities," he said. "On the other hand, the DOT-DPWH convergence program will need to be skewed to include reparation of roads and bridges."
He added that the DOT's crisis management committee headed by Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz will hold consultation meetings with heads of industry to come up with a contingency plan to offer alternative tour programs within Cebu and Bohol.
"On the business side, I call on our industry leaders and suppliers to swiftly embark on aggressive plans to sustain the destinations' marketability and to achieve normalcy. Cooperation and commitment is key and I am confident that Cebu and Bohol leaders have plenty of these," Jimenez said.