Siquijor, Negros Oriental preparing for domestic tourism reopening

THE PROVINCES of Negros Oriental and Siquijor are gearing up to reopen for domestic visitors nationwide, joining their two neighbors, Cebu and Bohol, in the Central Visayas Region that have already resumed tourism activities. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat visited the two provinces last week to discuss how the national department can assist in the local industry’s revival, such as the adaption of the Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA) digital platform for registration and tracking. “Everyone is aware that the country’s tourism industry suffered a major setback last year, which prompted many of our destinations, including Negros Oriental, to put up travel restrictions. I am happy to say, however, that there has been significant progress in our efforts to rebuild tourism here in Negros Oriental,” she said. One of the first towns in Negros Oriental that recently reopened is Dauin, where some diving establishents have already been allowed to resume operations. Ms. Puyat, who chairs the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, said more representatives of the agency will be deployed in the region to strengthen capacity and accredit more dive establishments. “This would allow the more efficient processing of the requirements to reopen dive establishments in Negros Oriental. The Department of Tourism-Region 7 office has also set up several diving activities for the year, including support for a marketing event previously discussed with the Negros Oriental Dive Association,” she said.

In Siquijor, Ms. Puyat said the island province is an ideal destination given the stronger market demand for mainly outdoor and cultural tourism activities amid the continued coronavirus threat. “Known as the Healing Island of Central Visayas, Siquijor has much to offer to nature lovers, adventure junkies, beach goers and divers, and culture enthusiasts, providing us ample reason to believe that the tourism sector in this province can successfully re-emerge from this crisis,” she said. Apart from its beaches and traditional healing traditions, Siquijor is also known for the Lazi Church and Convent, declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines. About 37 tourism establishments on the island have already been accredited for reopening. As of February 15, the tourism regional office has already inspected and certified 962 establishments across Central Visayas. — MSJ

Mt. Apo remains open with stricter policing from porters and guides

MOUNT Apo, the country’s highest peak, will remain open to climbers and trekkers after the protected area’s management board voted to defer a proposed closure due to irresponsible tourists who recently left trash along the trails and campsites as well as vandalized boulders. Julius R. Paner, tourism officer of Sta. Cruz town which is one of the entry points to the mountain, said there are enough policies and guidelines in place, and what is crucial is stricter implementation. “Basically, these policies are stipulated in the Unified Trekking Policy and I found it effective in maintaining our trail,” he said. “When it comes to trash particularly in the trail of Sta. Cruz, our porters and guides are tasked to police to ensure that there are no trash left by the trekkers,” he added. The Protected Area Management Board handling Mt. Apo, in an en banc meeting last week, voted 28 to eight in favor of continuing climbing activities. Mt. Apo was reopened in November 2020 with additional safety protocols in consideration of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, Environment and Natural Resources Davao Regional Director Bagani Fidel A. Evasco pushed for the temporary closure of the Mt. Apo park after a weekend camp assessment showed the violations. Mt. Apo straddles Davao City and the provinces of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato. “We aim for the improvement of condition and sustainability of Mt. Apo. We must do what it takes to safeguard the country’s highest peak — to protect it as a key biodiversity area and one of our immense natural resources,” Mr. Evasco said during the board meeting. — Maya M. Padillo