PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The world-famous tourist town of Coron in Palawan province is set to reopen to local visitors by the end of this month and to the rest of the country, possibly by December.
The municipal Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) has decided it’s time to welcome back visitors who were barred from entering Coron when the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic struck in March, provided that all health protocols will be strictly observed.
“To tell you frankly, I no longer want to think about [the income we’ve lost], Mayor Mario Reyes Jr. told the Inquirer by phone on Sunday. The losses when tourism establishments shut down had yet to be quantified, he said.
On Saturday, the municipal tourism office announced that starting Oct. 26, residents may enjoy the picturesque islands of Coron. By Nov. 16, locals from the Calamian Islands Group, composed of the municipalities of Coron, Busuanga, Culion and Linapacan, would be allowed to visit.
Domestic travels from around the Philippines were temporarily set to start on Dec.1.
“We’re waiting for the approval from the regional IATF. Once approved, we have to prepare the airport. We have to meet with the airline [companies], and of course the business establishments,” Reyes said.
Sofia antigen test kits for detecting COVID-19 antibodies were acquired by the municipal government on Oct. 7 as local health officials have strengthened efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, which had seen a significant increase in its active cases early August.
“The antigen test has 96.7-percent sensitivity rate and will help our front-liners to detect the COVID-19 patients. We can easily isolate them to mitigate the spreading of the disease,” read a previous statement from the municipal information office.
As of Saturday, the town still had a total of 75 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 11 were active cases, and two fatalities.
Coron is still seeking approval from the Department of Health (DOH) for the use of the antigen test kits, which is the key element in its tourism reopening bid, Reyes said. “The most important is the approval or permit from the Department of Health, which is the bottom line of our approval to reopen. That’s the key,” he said.
Local business establishments were also seeking a certificate of authority to operate from the Department of Tourism, as well as other permits from the municipal government.
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