Tourism stakeholders assured of all-out support; El Nido, Bohol, Siargao, Siquijor get ADB, WB funds

The Department of Tourism has assured its stakeholders of all-out support, highlighting that health and safety measures will be the top priority as the industry prepares to slowly reopen.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat gave this assurance to the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) in light of President Rodrigo Duterte’s call on Filipinos to help boost the local economy by traveling domestically during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat

The TCP is a private organization of tourism stakeholders created by law to partner with the DOT in the promotion of tourism in the country.

“The DOT continues to outline plans of action and protocols at every tourist site in the country, particularly, the premier destinations of Palawan, Boracay, Bohol, Davao and Baguio City,” Puyat said.

In a letter sent to TCP President Jose Clemente III dated July 30, the tourism chief detailed the efforts taken by the DOT in helping the local travel destinations get ready for the reopening of tourism.

According to Puyat, both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide loans and technical assistance to develop and manage the tourist destinations “in a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive manner” through the upgrade of local infrastructure, local economic development, disaster risk and crisis management, and policy reforms.

Under Puyat’s flagship project in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) called the Transforming Communities towards Resilient, Inclusive, and Sustainable Destinations or TouRIST, three key tourism sites will be restored in El Nido, Palawan. There will also be improvements in the Corong-Corong sewerage and septic management, and technical assistance for emergency health services will be provided.

Coron will also benefit from the DOT-ADB collaboration with the restoration of four tourism sites, drainage improvements, social enterprise support and livelihood development, among others. 

“Phase 1 of the ADB loan program will cost $50 million in time for implementation early next year,” she said.

In Central Visayas, another premier destination Bohol will also receive a $62 million funding from the World Bank as part of the TouRIST program by the first quarter of 2021.

“The amount will fund local economic development initiatives like the Assistance to Reinvigorate Tourism (ART) Value Chain, the Palengke Program, and tourism sites enhancement and management and enhancement of hygiene preparedness in tourist sites,” she said.

The TouRist project will also provide assistance to the islands of Siargao and Siquijor.

Siargao will be assisted with funding for the development of a wastewater treatment facility, upgrading of water supply facilities, hygiene preparedness of tourist sites, and the Heals 911 Center. While the Siquijor, the only COVID-free island in Central Visayas, will be funded for the installation of solar-powered streetlights and for the SAFER Siquijor smart hotline project.

Meanwhile, Puyat noted the turnover of essential medical equipment to ensure the readiness of Boracay Island to handle COVID-related concerns.

Similar to the efforts exerted in Boracay, the DOT is also actively coordinating with the private sector for the turnover of the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines and a ribonucleic acid (RNA) extractor to the Davao City local government unit. This will be used in the COVID-19 Laboratory at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport.

For Baguio City, which is set to reopen this September, the DOT, through its attached agency Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), will allocate P7.2 million to fund five rebranding projects, such as the Visitors Management System Application, which is a multi-platform digital system that will manage and monitor tourist arrivals in the city and promote “new normal” protocols and practices.

 “We can never be too prepared and ready for the slow but sure tourism restart. Health and safety still remain the utmost priority, not just of the tourists and tourism workers, but also of the locals at every destination,” Puyat said.