CEBU CITY — The provincial government of Cebu has reopened the tourism industry in the whale shark watching town of Oslob on Friday, marking the start of the gradual recovery of one of the hardest-hit industries by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We are hopeful to revive the tourism industry in the province. Let us join together to revive our economy,” Governor Gwen Garcia said in Cebuano during the ceremonial launching attended by various tourism stakeholders in Barangay Tan-awan, one of the famous tourist destinations here.
Among the tourism activities the province now allows include whale shark watching, snorkeling, trekking, diving, and island-hopping.
“We were finding ways to revive our tourism industry. We were doing consultations. We will ensure that health protocols are in place,” the governor said, noting that guidelines and protocols for tourism operations have been laid out for implementation across the province,” Garcia said.
Garcia, together with Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Visayas Director Shalimar Tamano, has been consulting with resort owners in southern Cebu, which is home to most of the famous tourist outdoor activities in the province.
The town of Oslob, she said, was famous for its whale shark watching, which has incurred millions of pesos in revenue losses for the past months due to the community quarantine.
Garcia said tourism activities must reopen even as the fight against the COVID-19 crisis continues. The province of Cebu has been placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) since July and will persist through August.
Under MGCQ, non-essential work gatherings and leisure activities are allowed so long as social distancing measures and established safety protocols are followed.
Garcia said reopening the tourism industry in the province will help bring back the lost jobs of Cebuanos, particularly the boatmen and tour guides, who depend on tourism activities as their livelihood.
As tourism reopens, establishments would still have to limit their accommodations to 50 percent of their original capacity.
The governor also hailed the tourism activities of Oslob that substantially uplift the lives of the town’s residents, saying that many families have sent their children to different universities here, their homes renovated, while many others can buy cars.
She prodded the Cebuanos to live with the new normal, with COVID-19 being part of the daily threats that should be managed, rather than making it a reason to stop the livelihood of the people.
“Are we going to open the economy when we have zero COVID-19 cases? Let me tell everyone here and now, accept it as a way of life, COVID-19 is here,” Garcia told the officials and stakeholders attending the opening program.