Duterte worried over virus’ effect on economy

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Ellson Quismorio

President Duterte is hoping that medical experts will soon find a cure for the 2019-novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) as the effects of the virus in the country was already bothering him, Malacañang said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers a speech during the Annual General Membership Meeting of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on January 21, 2020. ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO President Rodrigo Roa Duterte  (ALFRED FRIAS / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after it was reported that the Philippine tourism industry has lost at least P10 billion due to the travel ban be­ing implemented by the government to contain the spread of the virus in the country.

In a radio interview, Panelo said President Duterte was already wor­ried since the Philippine economy was starting to get affected.

“Every President will be both­ered every time na (the) economy is affected. Kaya nga ginagawan ng paraan (That’s why we’re doing something about it),” he said Sunday morning.

“Lahat tayo sa buong mundo na apektado niyan, ganyan ang resulta (Everyone of us affected by the virus are suffering from the same thing). What we can do is to stop the spread of the disease,” he said.

According to the Philippine Tour Operators Association, about 50 per­cent of reservations in Boracay, Bohol, Cebu, and Palawan have been cancelled as the government contin­ues to implement a travel ban to and from China.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) said it was eyeing to boost promotions in South Korea and the United States, the country’s top and 3rd largest tourist markets, respectively, and was already coordinating with hotels and airlines to give discounts to attract more visitors.

Panelo enjoined the public in pray­ing for a cure to the dreaded virus.

Chinese tourists

The 2019-nCoV scare will make the Philippines realize the importance of Chinese tourists to local tourism industry.

“With this nCoV scare I’m sure the tourist arrivals will decrease especially our government is imposing a ban on arrivals coming from China,” Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said.

“I’m sure we will feel it because the average expenses of every tourist per day is between $84 and $100 and if you multiply this by a million tour­ists, we will be a losing almost $100 million so definitely there will be re­percussions in our tourism industry,” explained Pimentel, a Deputy Speaker of the House in the 18th Congress.

Deputy Speaker in Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte wants the DOT to focus on enticing domestic tourists to visit local “hotspots” as a way to offset the expected losses from the travel ban.

“As the tourism industry braces for a major hit with the timely imposition by President Duterte of a temporary travel ban to China and its territories Hong Kong and Macao, and to in­clude all foreigners who have visited these areas over the past two weeks, it is time for the DOT to make a more aggressive push for domestic tour­ism... by selling to our countrymen our ‘hotspots,’ particularly the fave destinations for extreme sports and ecotourism,” he said.

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