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Camotes ready for tourism
By: Eleanor Valeros | Published Sunday, August 09, 2020
Relaunching the tourism industry in Cebu North, Gov. Gwen Garcia, together with Provincial Board members and other national and local officials, visited Bukilat Cave, one of the beautiful tourist attractions in Camotes Island. (Tonee Despojo)

Reopening of the tourism sector in northern Cebu began in the Camotes group of islands with the relaunch of attractions like Lake Danao and Santiago Bay in San Francisco town last August 8, Bukilat Cave in Tudela as well as Buho Rock in Poro today, Aug. 9.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is the first among local chief executives in the country to have responded to the resuscitation of domestic tourism as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte in his recent State of the Nation Address.

Even when still under the General Community Quarantine status, Garcia already appealed for the revival of tourism activities as these are sources of livelihood to thousands of constituents in the Province. But the request was turned down since tourism is considered a form of leisure under IATF guidelines.

But under Modified General Community Quarantine, the activities are already permitted, so Garcia's Executive Orders 20 and 20-A were signed and adopted as ordinances, and the 44 towns and six component cities adopted the provincial ordinances in crafting their own policies at the municipal level.

"Kadtong mahadlok mangabli okay ra man. Padayon lang mo'g stay at home. Panago mo. Panirado mo'g bintana ug pultahan. Maayo ra man gud na's mga datu kay di man sila mogawas permi para mopalit og bugas. Pero kadtong gusto na manginabuhi, mangabli na ta," Garcia expressed.

She reiterated that sources of livelihood have to grind again as government cannot sustain providing for the people's food supplies. "Dili na mahimo nga magsige og hatag og ayuda ang gobyerno kay daghan pa ta'g proyekto nga humanon. Ang atong mga karsada, ang atong waterworks. Di na mahimo nga mangundang na lang ta'g pasemento sa atong mga karsada kay magsige tag pakaon sa mga nawad-ag trabaho," she emphasized.

As for concerns on travel requirements, Garcia pointed out that the medical certificate and travel authority are required of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) not tourists.

What tourists should do is to book through a central portal - discover.cebu.gov.ph - wherein they can browse through information on tour packages, cashless payment, the health protocols for each tourism activity like island hopping or snorkeling, among others.

Garcia took a boat to an islet in Lake Danao and did water cycling. She took a tour inside Bukilat Cave, tasted cassava cookies, and tried more  delicacies offered in Poro at Buho Rock Resort.

Loans available

Soft loans for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) ranging from P10,000 to P500,000 payable in two years with no interest and collateral will be available to tourism stakeholders in Camotes Island affected by restrictions when Cebu Province closed its borders under a lockdown as an anti-Covid 19 response.

According to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Assistant Secretary Asteria "Aster" Caberte, there is an approved loan package worth P200,000 to a resort operator in San Francisco. Caberte disclosed this after resort owners in a tourism stakeholders meeting in Santiago Bay Garden Resort expressed that they might not be able to immediately procure the ultraviolet germicidal light, air purifying system with Hepa filter, and other equipment made mandatory in Executive Order 20-A on the health protocols, standards, and guidelines in line with the revival of tourism-related acrivities.

"Akong hangyo nga mo-comply ta sa requirements - simplified requirements tarungon nato pagdala ang kwarta nga gipahulam sa atong gobyerno," Caberte addressed the stakeholders last August 8.

Caberte also read a message of DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez praising Governor Garcia for her proactive response to the resuscitation of economic prospects especially tourism which is an economic driver in Cebu Province.

Garcia led many firsts in response to Covid-19 mitigation, the latest of which is the creation of the Cebu Provincial Tourism Task Force to establish the metrics in the reopening of tourism activities such as island hopping, diving, and snorkeling, among others, and to assist resort owners and operators to reopen while observing mandatory health protocols.

The Provincial Tourism Task Force was in for two days for the relaunch.

The members of the task force led by Garcia with Caberte and Department of Tourism Regional Director Shahlimar Tamano received baskets of vegetables produced by the vegetable gardening project of the Province dubbed "Sugbusog (Sugbuanong Busog, Luwas, ug Himsog)." 

Tamano lauded the governor for her initiative in leading the resuscitation of tourism through a pioneering effort - that which is the task force which matches the national agenda not just of the DTI but more so of the DOT. (Eleanor Valeros)