MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippine government is eyeing to restore domestic tourism in three areas in Palawan, months after the travel sector was brought to a standstill due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat is currently consulting with local executives from El Nido, Coron, and San Vicente, as they report some P3.1 billion in tourism revenue losses due to the pandemic.
Some 14,000 tourism workers in the said areas were also heavily affected by the pandemic, local officials said.
Puyat said they would aim for a "slow but sure" restart in Palawan tourism.
"We want to restart tourism in Palawan but we want it slow but sure. Talks underway for limited domestic tourism and a 'dry run' in El Nido resorts, Coron and San Vicente open to restarting tourism but LGU (local government) will still consult with constituents first," she said.
Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez echoed Puyat’s sentiments in ensuring health and safety for these areas before opening up for tourism.
While Alvarez said the move is "necessary," he said "mass tourism" will be prohibited once things have been finalized.
Palawan is currently categorized under modified general community quarantine.
“Tourism in Palawan is necessary in order to survive but mass tourism will not be allowed,” Alvarez said.
The DOT and local government units will also look into carrying capacities for these areas during the pandemic.
The move comes after Boracay, one of the country's biggest tourism spots, was opened to Western Visayas residents last June 16 as most parts of the country shifted to looser lockdown protocols in a bid to restart the economy.
It was shuttered for nearly three months.
The tourism sector has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic after the government sought to limit movement among people to prevent the spread of the virus.
As a result, jobs in the tourism sector, particularly in the airline industry, travel agencies, and tourist spots have been heavily affected by the limited human movement with some being forced to lay off workers.
DOT is also in talks with Bohol officials regarding limited domestic tourism in the province.
But Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap first wants to secure enough RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) machines for coronavirus testing.
-- Report from Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News