IATF may not allow reopening of Cebu to foreign tourists due to emerging new COVID variants — DOT

Published January 12, 2021, 2:45 PM

by Hanah Tabios

As the Cebu provincial government and the city government of Lapu-Lapu are eyeing to reopen the country’s second-busiest gateway to foreign tourists, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the national government’s COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) may not allow the said plan even if it’s for the revival of the hardest hit tourism sector. 

The southern town of Moalboal in Cebu is famous for diving with the sardines. It has become a top attraction in the beach destination.
(Photo courtesy of John Cuyos of Shutterstock via PNA / MANILA BULLETIN)

“With the UK (United Kingdom) and South African (COVID-19) variants, IATF may not allow this,” Puyat told the Manila Bulletin.

In December last year, reports said both Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan have agreed to reopen the country’s second busiest air hub, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), to international arrivals to boost the recovery of the ailing tourism sector. 

Garcia was quoted as saying that the province will soon “send word to the entire world” that they will be reopening for business. 

Garcia also sits as a member of the board of directors for the Mactan MCIAA, the state-run body co-managing the airport.

The local leaders also gained the support of Tourism Regional Director Shalimar Tamano. 

Puyat said she will refer this to the IATF, adding that the LGU can always ask the task force about their plans. 

Cebu province has been placed under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) since July and the provincial government is also planning to create travel bubbles among its neighboring provinces from Region 7. 

Central Visayas heavily relies on tourism. The pandemic has already brought more than P35.5 billion losses in tourism revenue alone from foreign arrivals due to travel restrictions imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.