Safe to travel around Philippines — Duterte

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipinos to travel around the country amid the coronavirus outbreak that has affected top tourist destinations in Asia.

In a video message, Duterte announced plans to visit local tourist sites and assured citizens that the country is safe.

“Come with me and be my travel companion. I’ll be traveling around the Philippines. Pasyal tayo dito sa atin. Unahin natin ‘yung atin,” he said.

“I assure you that everything is safe in our country, be it an issue of health, be it an issue of law and order and be it an issue of accessibility.”

He added tourism industry stakeholders agreed to spur domestic travel through lowering of airfare and hotel rates.

“Maraming magagandang mapuntahan sa Pilipinas. Wala kayong dapat alalahanin,” he said.

The mitigation plan comes after the Philippines imposed a temporary entry ban on foreigners who had traveled to virus-hit mainland China and its special administrative regions Macau and Hong Kong within the past 14 days.

The government later expanded the ban’s coverage to travelers from Taiwan. China and Taiwan are among the top tourism markets for the Philippines, which welcomed 7.48 million foreigners from January to November last year.

The Philippines is expected to lose P42 billion in tourism revenues from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan due to the coronavirus outbreak from February to April, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said Wednesday.

Economy and tourism

The House leaders expressed confidence that the Philippine tourism can recover from the 2019 corona virus or COVID-19 consequence.

Upon the directive of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, the committees on economic affairs and tourism held a joint public hearing to discuss possible measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 to the economy and tourism sector.

Chairperson of the committee on economic affairs AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin said there is a big chance for the tourism industry to recover.

Cayetano likewise said short and long-term plans need to be enforced.

“We urge tourism stakeholders from the private sector to continue working with us so as to prevent the displacement of workers affected and the disruption of growth in the tourism industry,” Cayetano said.

The tourism industry accounted for 5.4 million jobs in the country in 2018, which was 1.8 percent higher compared to the 5.3 million jobs in 2017.

In an earlier statement, Cayetano stressed the importance of preparing a contingency plan to ensure that the tourism growth of the country will not be derailed in the next few months.

He vowed to support initiatives to revitalize the tourism industry, which contributed 12.7 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2018, and to promote domestic tourism in the Philippines.

In 2018, the Philippines registered 111 million domestic tourists in 2018, surpassing the 86 million domestic tourists target for 2022 under the National Tourism Development Plan.

Domestic expenditure also grew to a whopping P3.2 trillion in 2018 from the P508.8 billion in 2009.

Tourism committee  vice chair and Bohol Rep.  Edgar Chatto  also manifested confidence in the tourism industry, which contributes 10 percent to the global work force and global production.

“We have been very resilient in the tourism sector even if we are threatened by disasters or threats like this. The tendency of the industry is really to rebound. It grows back. After this crisis, we will be able to bounce back,” Chatto said.

Romulo-Puyat reassured the general public that efforts are being undertaken by the Department to soften the impact.

Romulo-Puyat added that meetings and consultations with tourism stakeholders from the private sector are being conducted and plans are being put into place.