Our top tourist attraction, Boracay island, was reopened last June 16, part of the gradual resumption of economic activity after the lockdowns in various areas of the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tourism operations may now resume on the island but only at 50 percent capacity in Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). Other popular tourist destinations, such as Baguio and Bohol, are also reopening at 50 percent capacity.
Boracay is now accepting visitors from the rest of Western Visayas. Secretary of Tourism Berna Romulo Puyat said there have been cruise ships visiting the island but foreign visitors are still not allowed.
Tourism is one of the leading programs of the country as it starts planning for the post-coronavirus period. Inbound tourism contributed P2.48 trillion to the Philippine economy in 2019, Secretary Puyat said, 10.8 percent higher than the P2.24 trillion in the previous year 2018. Domestic tourism contributed P3.14 trillion in 2019, 10.4 percent more than the P2.85 trillion in 2018.
The reopening of Boracay last June 15, even if only to local visitors and at only 50 percent of the usual capacity, is perhaps the brightest and the most hopeful note in our country’s plans for recovery after three to four months of various levels of quarantine which brought economic activity of all kinds to a stop.
One other area with great possibilities in the recovery planning is agriculture. Secretary of Agriculture William Dar said early this week that in the search for employment for thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who have been forced to return home after COVID-19 ravaged he economies of hundreds of countries where our OFWs were working.
With the slowdown in the Philippine economy, the Department of Labor forecasts that by December, 2021, at least one million OFWs will be forced to return home. As of last month, it said, 323,537 OFWs had been displaced from their jobs, mostly in the Middle East. The Department of Labor and Employment forecasts at least one million will be forced to return home by December, 2021.
Agribusiness presents a great opportunity not only for employment but also for investment, Secretary Dar said. Today agriculture contributes only a minor part of the nation’s annual economic growth , he said. We even have to import our nation’s rice needs from Thailand and Vietnam.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over but is on its way down and it is time to start planning for the new world. The Philippines is fortunate to have at least these two areas –tourism and agriculture –where we have great potentials and opportunities.