Governors to hold summit on reopening Central Visayas economy

CEBU CITY – The governors of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor have agreed to meet in Siquijor on August 12 to map out an inter-island strategy, and to discuss common concerns on tourism as the key growth and development driver to reopen the region’s economy.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia suggested to hold the meeting during a virtual press briefing, Sunday, that was hosted by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) Assistant Secretary Jonji Gonzales, and Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary for Regional Operations Asteria Caberte with the other governors as guests.

Garcia, Bohol Governor Arthur Yap, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, and Siquijor Governor Zaldy Villa acknowledged that Central Visayas’ economy was highly dependent on tourism, and they agreed that an inter-island tourism program would be the key to revive and resuscitate the economy.

Garcia pointed out that it was much better for the four provinces to work together on the possibility of opening tourism to the domestic tourists.  “Now is the best time to revive the tourism industry as quarantine measures in the four island provinces have started to ease in recent weeks,” she added.

Garcia suggested that the four provinces must agree on the same protocols that must be followed once tourism activities come back to business.

“We will meet so we can discuss on how we can work on these tourism exchange,” Garcia said citing that the Cebu provincial government has been working on the gradual revival of tourism activities in the province.

Yap, on his part, said that Bohol province was now eyeing a travel bubble to support its economy that relies heavily on tourism, in addition to agriculture.

“If Cebu is dependent on tourism, more so with Bohol. We’re now looking at exploring bilateral agreements in arrivals,” Yap bared, and he also suggested that the governors' summit also take up other concerns as well.

Yap went on that travel bubbles, also known as travel corridors, would essentially be an exclusive partnership between and among neighboring places that have demonstrated considerable success in containing and combating the COVID-19 pandemic within their respective borders.

Degamo and Villa agreed to implement the planned inter-island tourism revival as they seek to bolster their local economies which are significantly dependent on tourism.

The OPAV will organize the said governors’ summit in collaboration with the DTI, Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).