#COVID-19 Regional Updates (06/14/20)

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Davao Oriental reopens tourism industry; Davao del Sur prepares for Mt. Apo treks

SOME 300 tourism establishments in Davao Oriental — restaurants, beach resorts and hotels — reopened last Friday as the province treads carefully towards reviving one of its important livelihood sources. Provincial Tourism Officer Mr. Miguel V. Trocio, in a statement, said the lockdown since mid-March “has taken a heavy toll on the tourism sector,” citing arrivals dropping to 80,098 in the first quarter this year from 234,702 in the same period 2019. There have been no operations in April and May. “Tourism, as one of the province’s major economic drivers and a huge job generator, is a vital sector that the province simply cannot live without. The province is highly dependent on tourism as many locals, whether directly or indirectly, thrive on it for their livelihood,” he said. Mr. Trocio said the local task force on COVID-19 has been closely coordinating with operators to ensure that national guidelines on health safety standards are implemented. “But more than anything else, the tourism establishments have the crucial responsibility to police themselves to ensure that these protocols are being followed,” said Davao Oriental Provincial Hospital Dr. Reden V. Bersaldo, also the lead officer of the task force. Apart from the national rules, Mr. Bersaldo said they have also asked accommodation facilities to designate an isolation space in case a guest develops symptoms of the disease. “It will serve as a containment area while the authorities are being coordinated for appropriate action,” he said, noting that the province has so far managed to prevent COVID-19 local transmission. Gabby Sibala, a resort owner and president of the Tourism Operators in Mati City, welcomed the resumption of tourism activities saying they are optimistic that people would slowly regain confidence in going to the beach and visiting sites. “We will start slow but responsibly and carefully,” he said.

In Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, Senior Municipal tourism Officer Julius R. Paner said they already have “a new normal action plan” and are just waiting for the greenlight to reopen establishments as well as treks to Mt. Apo. “Local tourism will be the key word. A slow start maybe but at least a sure step to pick up where we left off,” he said. Apart from the scheduled hikes to the country’s highest peak, the town also lost income opportunity from two major events held every April, the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge and the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race. Department of Tourism Davao Regional Director Tanya Rabat-Tan said among the action plans for the recovery program is promoting travel within the region as a start, and providing training for digital marketing such as recorded and live-stream virtual tours. — Maya M. Padillo