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By: Eleanor Valeros | Published Wednesday, July 15, 2020
To re-open Cebu Province’s tourism industry safely, Gov. Gwen Garcia with national and local government officials met tourism stakeholders in Oslob town, known for its whaleshark watching activity and other tourist destinations, to gather their consensus on the ’new normal’ tourism guidelines to be implemented. (Tonee Despojo)

Oslob town lost around P100 million in ecotourism shares under four months of community quarantine, but Executive Order 20-A will serve as a beacon of light to regain the heavy losses which could have already funded more road and water improvement projects.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia met tourism stakeholders in Oslob today, July 15, to gather the consensus of ecotourism operators on mandatory health and safety standards, as well as the new rates and sharing scheme with boatmen of the town’s whaleshark watching activity, the local government unit, and the barangay.

Under new normal management, visitors will have to book the activity first and pay online. Walk-in visitors will be discouraged.

"Unahon gyud nato ang inyong rates since online booking na man ta. Ug unahon gyud nato ang hotels dinhi for accommodation," Garcia said.

But the reopening of tourism-related activities such as whaleshark watching, diving, snorkeling, parasailing, among others, should be done preferably in a slow, controlled and orderly manner, targeted to a specific market.

"Dili man ni nato mahimong i-open sa masa kay ang atong gilikayan nga magkayamukat ta," Garcia pointed out on the suggested on accepting 1,000 persons per day which is 50% of the whaleshark watching activity's normal carrying capacity of 2,000 guests a day.

Guests will include both local tourists and expats since no foreign tourists are expected to arrive as international flights are not permitted to Cebu yet.

The governor encouraged cooperation in establishing control of visitors and mass gathering. "Dili ta murag kanang mga baka nga nakabuhi sa toril. Atong ipakita nga disiplinado ang Probinsiya," she added.

Tourist police will also be tapped through a task force to ensure enforcement of protocols based on IATF regulations.

"Ato na ning dawaton nga kining Covid mura og parte na ni sa inadlaw-adlaw natong kinabuhi ug panginabuhi," Garcia said.

The governor stated that before the resuscitation of tourism got the go-signal, she had to appeal twice that tourism should not be categorized as a "leisure activity."

"Dili man ni lulinghayaw. Livelihood ni. Pila ang nawala nga share ani sa Barangay Tan-awan, around P30 million," she said.

"Nya kusog ra ba unta ni motabang ang Barangay Tan-awan sa ubang barangay. Sila ni manghatag og proyekto," she pointed out.

Provisions of the draft of EO 20-A such as sterilizing of luggage and other personal belongings with an ultraviolet germicidal light seen to be more practical than scrubbing alcohol on wider surfaces, giving guests health drinks as welcome drinks, and installing foot baths, acrylic or glass barriers at reception and front desks, among other stringent health protocols have been agreed.

However, a special stakeholders meeting with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Provincial Tourism Office is set on Friday, July 17, which will fine-tune the concerns of boatmen and resort owners as well as those of paragliding operators.

DOT 7 Director Shahlimar Tamano told the stakeholders that only Cebu Province so far has outlined protocols specific to each tourism-related activity.

"The protocols are carefully considered in a series of meetings in two months. Advice gyud ni ni Gov (Gwen) to go back to the stakeholders," he said.

Present during the consultative meeting were Cebu 2nd District Rep. Willy Caminero, 2nd District Provincial Board Members Edsel Galeos and Jose Mari "Tata" Salvador, Provincial Tourism Officer Maria Lester "Marti" Ybañez, with Department of Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Aster Caberte, Oslob Mayor Jose Tumulak, Dalaguete Mayor Jeffrey Belciña, and Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Col. Roderick Mariano.

Belciña joined the meeting as hiking activities in Osmeña Peak are connected with the tour packages offered in Oslob. (Eleanor Valeros)