Cebu to focus on tourism reopening to boost coronavirus-hit economy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 1) — Following the easing of lockdown restrictions in most areas in Cebu province, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said she will focus on reviving the tourism industry upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The national government on Tuesday downgraded the community quarantine status in the province until July 15, from a general community quarantine (GCQ) to a slightly more relaxed modified GCQ (MGCQ).

This is with the exception of some areas, including Cebu City which remains under enhanced community quarantine. Talisay City, as well as the municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion, meanwhile, are under GCQ.

In a virtual press conference with local authorities in Cebu and members of the COVID-19 Inter-agency Task Force on Wednesday, Garcia welcomed the MGCQ status and called it a “very positive development.”

The loosening of rules, she said, will allow the province’s tourism sector to gradually recover.

“Since tourism activities have been halted, there are many who are out of work,” Garcia said.

“We will focus now on the resumption of tourism activities in many of our towns, such as whale watching, canyoneering, thresher shark watching, and a lot of other activities," she continued.

Garcia, however, clarified that these will be subject to strict health protocols.

The governor added that Cebu will now be investing more in agricultural production, as she cited the need for food self-sufficiency and to provide opportunities for people to earn.

“If there’s anything that this lockdown has taught us, it’s that Cebu is not self-sufficient in food,” she pointed out.

‘Cebu City still has enough funds’

The reopening of the economy, however, is a different story for Cebu City — the only area in the country placed under the strictest lockdown.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who is also chief overseer of the COVID-19 pandemic response in the city, said once the ECQ is lifted in the area, he plans to continue implementing strict quarantine measures in some 20 barangays.

These are those that would continue to log high cases of the coronavirus disease.

Magkakaroon pa rin sila ng lockdown until dahan-dahan na ma-reduce ‘yung number of cases in their barangay,” he said. “Meron akong gagawing threshold doon. The moment na ma-reach nila ‘yung threshold, they will be free from the lockdown already.”

[Translation: They will still be under lockdown until we see a decrease in the number of cases in their barangay. I will set a threshold for that. The moment they reach the threshold, they will be free from the lockdown already.]

Meanwhile, amid fears that the city is running low on funds, Mayor Edgardo Labella assured constituents that they have enough to aid residents during the quarantine.

A supplemental budget amounting to ₱500 million has earlier been approved by the City Council, and will be used to purchase 200,000 sacks of rice, according to the mayor. He added that the city’s existing 2020 budget can still provide ₱1 million each for all 80 barangays.

“I think they will be distributed next week, with the guideline that 80% of the ₱1 million should be devoted to the purchase of food, and 20% should be devoted to the purchase of protection materials, like masks,” he said.

Based on the latest data from the Department of Health in Central Visayas, there are currently 6,175 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cebu City. Of this number, only 3,440 are active cases, after 2,551 patients recovered and 184 died.

To date, the Philippines has recorded a total of 38,511 infections, with 10,438 recoveries and 1,270 deaths.