By Martin Sadongdong
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer of the national action plan (NAP) on coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is considering Bohol in Central Visayas (Region 7) as a “model” province under the “new normal” due to its effective implementation of health protocols.
In his visit to Bohol on May 23, Galvez said the local government unit (LGU) of the island-province has a “highly-effective pandemic response.”
Bohol is currently placed under a general community quarantine (GCQ). Areas under the GCQ have “low-risk” of infection.
“Baka mapunta na kayo sa MGCQ [modified general community quarantine], ibig sabihin malapit na kayo sa new normal. I believe gagawin natin ang Bohol na model for new normal,” he told local officials during his visit.
[Translation: You might transition into MGCQ (modified GCQ), which means you are soon to be in the new normal. I believe we will make Bohol a model for new normal.]
As of Saturday, the Department of Health (DOH) has recorded 13,777 confirmed cases nationwide, with 3,177 recoveries and 863 deaths.
Of these, Central Visayas accounts for 1,949 cases, with 57 recoveries and 28 deaths. Only two of these cases were reported in Bohol, one of which has already recovered.
Galvez said the government is focused on reviving tourism-based economies such as Bohol, while considering the health and safety of the general public.
Bohol is regarded as one of the top tourist destinations in the country. It is known for its white-sand beaches, world-famous Chocolate Hills, and the Philippine tarsier, which is one of the smallest primates in the world.
In 2018, the Department of Tourism reported that more than 1.4 million local and foreign tourists visited the province.
“Unang una, ang plan namin is matulungan ang Bohol to open up its businesses kasi nakita natin ang COVID-19 crisis will stay hangga’t wala pang vaccine. So ang nakikita natin na ang primary needs sa Bohol na kailangang aksyunan is ‘yung tourism and travel,” Galvez said.
[Translation: First and foremost, our plan is to help Bohol to open up its businesses because we have seen that the COVID-19 crisis will stay until no vaccine is invented. So Bohol’s tourism and travel will have to be prioritized.]
To do this, the first order of business will be to ensure the well-being of residents, as well as tourists who will be coming in once the province opens up, according to NAP COVID-19 Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon.
“Ang goal is to make Bohol one of the models para sa pag-reopen ng tourism sa Pilipinas. The number one requirement for that to happen is to have a very strong testing capacity sa Bohol,” Dizon said.
[Translation: The goal is to make Bohol one of the models in reopening of tourism in the Philippines. The number one requirement for that to happen is to have a very strong testing capacity in Bohol.]
The officials turned over 500 sets of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines to the LGU of Bohol. The medical supplies and equipment will be distributed to the Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Medical Hospital in Tagbilaran City.
Dizon said the government also plans to establish a COVID-19 testing laboratory at the Bohol-Panglao International Airport to boost the province’s testing capacity.
Further, offshore testing laboratories are also being eyed to be established at the seaport and in the provincial government.
“This is to prepare the province both for the arrivals of the overseas workers and tourists,” Dizon said.
Meanwhile, Galvez expressed optimism that a gradual reopening of the tourism industry in Bohol “is on the horizon.”
A dry run will be conducted from June to July where 25 percent of the tourism industry will be initially opened to the public.
It will gradually be increased until Bohol’s tourism industry is 100 percent up and running, Galvez said.
Meanwhile, Bohol Governor Arthur Yap expressed gratitude to the national government for its confidence in the province, and for providing much-needed medical supplies and equipment.