Cebu’s whale shark watching enterprise lost P35M
CEBU CITY—The town of Oslob in southern Cebu lost as much as P35 million in income after whale shark watching activities in the municipality were suspended for four months due to restrictions aimed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The loss of a major source of income for the town forced local officials to cancel many of their projects, according to Oslob Mayor Jose “Jun” Tumulak Jr.
“We’re preparing the town’s budget for next year and we really have to cut several items because we don’t expect to recover our losses within the year,” said Tumulak, without specifying the projects that have to be scrapped.
Oslob, located some 118 kilometers south of Cebu City, has become a major tourism destination on the island due to its “butanding,” or whale shark watching activities.
Although the fish species was first sighted in Oslob in the 1950s, the town realized their economic potential only in September 2011.
Tourist arrivals from neighboring provinces and other countries increased after videos and photos of visitors feeding and swimming with the gentle giants spread online.
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Wednesday met with resort owners and town officials of Oslob to discuss the guidelines for the resumption of tourism activities in the municipality after the province was placed under a more relaxed modified general community quarantine on July 1. The governor also met with tourism stakeholders in other municipalities in preparation for the gradual revival of the tourism industry to jump-start the economy.
To prevent the transmission of COVID-19, resort owners will be required to purchase disinfecting equipment, install barriers on customer service counters, provide alcohol and sanitizers, and provide water infused with calamansi and honey to boost the immune system of visitors.
Resort employees and visitors must also wear face masks and shields while in public places.
Sharing of mouthpiece and diving tubes among those snorkeling or diving would not be allowed. Outrigger boats, life vests and other equipment used in whale shark watching have to be regularly disinfected.
To control the arrivals, Tumulak said tourists would be required to first book their preferred activities and pay online at a website that would be launched soon.
“There will be no walk-in visitors for now,” he said.
The mayor said they could start accepting visitors in their town next week. —NESTLE SEMILLA
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