MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday asked Filipinos to travel with him around the country in a bid to spur domestic tourism and reassure the public that the country remained safe from the threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
In a taped address released by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the President urged his countrymen to prioritize Philippine destinations amid the global health crisis.
“To my fellow Filipinos, I encourage you to travel with me around the Philippines. 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 said.
“Come with me and be my travel companion. I’ll be traveling around the Philippines. Let us roam around what’s ours. Let’s prioritize what’s ours. Long live the Filipino. Love live tourism in the Philippines,” Mr. Duterte said. He added that local hotels and airlines “have agreed to lower the rates so that we can be a viable market for the Philippines.”
On Wednesday, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told lawmakers the Philippines might lose P42.9 billion in “foregone revenue” over the next three months as a result of the ban on travelers from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
At a hearing of a joint House panel on tourism and economic affairs, Puyat presented her agency’s projections on the impact of the coronavirus scare on tourism revenues, particularly from Chinese tourists, who in 2019 comprised the second-largest group of foreign visitors after South Koreans.
She said the viral outbreak “has already resulted in cancellations and a corresponding decrease in tourist traffic to the Philippines and a number of countries around the globe.”
Computation by the Department of Tourism (DOT) shows that lost revenues would amount to P16.8 billion in February, P14.11 billion in March, and P11.99 billion in April.
Puyat added that on Monday, the DOT and the private tourism sector met with the President to discuss plans to roll out “more value-added tour packages, discounted accommodation rates and marked-down prices for domestic flights.”
The video message showing Duterte inviting Filipinos to visit local destinations was posted on the social media pages of the DOT, its regional offices, and attached agencies on Friday.
The President’s message, interspersed with pictures of the country’s scenic beaches and island resorts, generally drew positive responses from the online viewers.
“Yes, we have so much more to offer in our own country … with 7k plus islands to go for adventures! We just have to appreciate what we have,” said netizen Mary Grace Gallardo on Facebook.
For more information about the novel coronavirus click here.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.