El Nido is set reopen to local tourists starting Monday as a dry-run for a Palawan-wide resumption of tourism activities in September.
The Tourism Department and the provincial government of Palawan agreed to restart tourism in the island starting with select tourists on July 6 ahead of the opening of all resorts and establishments to visitors from other parts of the Philippines under the modified general community quarantine.
“Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez and El Nido Mayor Edna Lim agreed to let in domestic visitors only via point-to-point travel and with COVID-negative results from RTPCR [reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction] 48 hours prior to travel,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat.
El Nido is COVID-free while Palawan is under MECQ.
Puyat said residents were still wary of incoming visitors and wanted to open the island by September 2020.
“All the more reason why the local government would like to stage a dry-run first before the island opens to the domestic public. They want to test the protocols with a hotel or resort that already has a certificate to operate, and that will be El Nido Resorts,” Puyat said.
Travelers from an MECQ area to Palawan will have to fly via AirSwift, a local boutique airline that is operating point-to-point flights from Clark Airport to El Nido.
Other tourism spots that earlier opened to local visitors were Boracay, Balesin Island in Quezon, Amanpulo Island and La Union.
These islands are open for local visitors only, with Amanpulo requiring a minimum protocol of COVID negative results from rapid testing.
Bohol, Batanes, Coron and Puerto Princesa will also open once laboratories equipped with RTCPR machines are established.
The Tourism Department is also looking at the reopening of Baguio City next month.
The tourism sector was one of the hardest hit by the health crisis. From record-breaking international arrivals of 8.3 million in 2019, visitor entries were halted in April and May amid the lockdown.
Under MECQ areas, hotel occupancy is limited at 30 percent while restaurants and diners are allowed to operate at a capacity of up to 50 percent.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said some 5,000 restaurants resumed operations since the protocols on restarting businesses were released. He said about 95-percent to 100-percent were compliant.
“Many have sought not only accreditation from the DTI but also from the Tourism Department. This is an excellent proof of good housekeeping and an efficient marketing tool for the owners,” he said.