Reopening Bohol to tourism still needs to be studied, says governor

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) -- Bohol Governor Arthur Yap said on Sunday that he still wants to study further the possibility of reopening the tourism industry of the island-province.

Kami naman syempre okay sa amin pero gusto naming pag-aralan ng mabuti kasi pinaghirapan namin ma-contain yung virus na ‘to,” Yap told CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Weekend.

[Translation: We are also in favor but we still want to study it because we worked hard to contain this virus.]

The Task Force on COVID-19 said on Saturday that it is eyeing to reopen tourism in Bohol amid the pandemic to set it as a “model” for the new normal for the industry. Task Force Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. said that they are targeting to start simulations in June and July, followed by partial reopening before fully reopening all tourism businesses in coordination with the local government, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Tourism.

However, Yap said that the reopening will largely depend on their testing and healthcare capabilities. He said that the province cannot just be opened immediately since doing so may lead to an outbreak there. Yap said that there are a total of 30,000 tourists per day in Bohol prior to closing down its borders, 20,000 of which are domestic sea travelers, while 10,000 come by air.

“Definitely right now depende yun sa (that depends on our) testing capability natin kasi hindi pwedeng magpa-pasok ng magpa-pasok ng tao (because we can’t just casually welcome people),” said Yap.

Kami syempre ang sagot namin gusto rin naming buksan kasi gusto na rin naming magtrabaho na yung mga tao pero hindi namin gagawin yun kung syempre ang kapalit naman non magkakaroon ng malawakang mga pandemic or outbreaks dito sa Bohol,” he explained.

[Translation: For us, we also want to reopen so that people can work but we will not do it if this will lead to many outbreaks here in Bohol.]

Yap said that they are currently prioritizing scaling up their testing capability. He said that there will be four polymerase chain reaction machines to be used in the province, one of which was already delivered during the visit of the Task Force in Bohol. This will support its target to test all its residents and tourists, he said.

Deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon previously said that the government is eyeing a testing laboratory in the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, while Galvez said that one can also be placed at the seaport and at the provincial government each.

Bohol recorded only 2 cases of COVID-19, of which one is an active case while one recovered, data from the Health department showed. It is currently under general community quarantine, which means non-essential businesses are already allowed to operate.

The island-province is known for tourist spots like Chocolate Hills, white-sand beaches and is home to the popular Philippine tarsier.