BOHOL – Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat assured the officials and tourism players of Bohol that reopening the island province to tourism would not be pursued at the expense of public health and safety.
The tourism chief made the assurance in a press conference after a meeting with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, Bohol Governor Arthur C. Yap, District Representatives including the Father of the Republic Act (R.A.) 9593 or the “Tourism Act of 2009” Cong. Edgar Chatto (1st District), and local chief executives of the 47 towns of the province to discuss the present situation, plans for the local tourism industry’s recovery, and the viability of resuming tourism activity in the island province.
“We will always respect the decision of the LGU in determining when tourism operations should resume. We will always work with you and coordinate with you regarding health and safety standards,” Puyat said, noting the province’s target to open its doors to visitors in the last quarter of the year.
During the dialogue, Governor Yap said the province will be employing the Ultimate Bohol Experience certification system that will award an “UBE Seal” to establishments that are compliant with health and safety protocols. The UBE Seal, inspired by the province’s special food crop—the Ube Kinampay, will complement the DOT’s accreditation system, added the Governor.
Bohol is also finalizing an ordinance that aligns with the existing national laws and tourism guidelines. The ordinance, Yap said, shall prescribe health protocols, determine the carrying capacity of tourism destinations, provide guidance on centralized reservation and payments, and compliance to environmental rules for Bohol.
Together with Secretary Año, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer (COO) Atty. Maria Anthonette C. Velasco-Allones, and Intramuros Administrator and Head of the Task Force on Domestic Tourism Product and Market Development Atty. Guiller Asido, Puyat inspected health and safety protocols of the DOT-accredited Modala Resort and Bellevue Resort both located in Panglao.
Likewise, the tourism chief went to the Bohol Medical Care Institute (BMCI) to tour its containerized reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) laboratory, one of the RT-PCR laboratories in the province that will soon become operational for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing.
Bohol, which is under a Moderate General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) since 1 July 2020, is one of the tourism destinations that the DOT supports through its Transforming Communities towards Resilient, Inclusive and Sustainable Tourism (TouRIST) Program, and will receive funding and assistance from the World Bank.
Under the TouRIST Program, Puyat said that the DOT shall focus on implementing the following improvements in Bohol: bulk water supply, solid waste management; local economic development like the Assistance to Reinvigorate Tourism (ART) value chain, Palengke Program, and tourism sites enhancement and management; and management support for hygiene preparedness in tourist sites, as well as the provision of decompression chambers and sea ambulances. The first phase of the project will have a total allocation of $62 million.
Puyat shared that in terms of determining so-called “travel” or “tourism” bubbles in the Philippines that may be opened to international tourists once travel restrictions are eased, Bohol is one of the first tourism destinations that come to her mind, given the province’s pool of dedicated leaders, low number of COVID-19 cases, beautiful beaches, resorts, dive spots, and other tourism attractions, and a new international airport situated in Panglao.
“Kapag iniisip ko ngayon ‘yung tourism bubble, naiisip ko agad ‘yung Bohol kasi magaling ‘yung Governor, Mayors, and Congressmen. We have 7,641 islands and twelve international airports. Bohol has its own international airport so pwede nang dumeretso,” Puyat explained.