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Oslob resumes whale shark watching but visitors still few

CEBU CITY — Whale shark watching in Oslob town in Cebu has resumed as the province reopened its doors to tourists in a bid to revive its struggling economy amid the new coronavirus disease pandemic.

But from around 1,000 tourists, the number of people who visit Oslob to see the whale sharks had gone down to only eight to 10 daily since Aug. 1, said Mayor Jun Tumulak.

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“Of course, the number is very far from what we had before the pandemic. But at least, we have guests. It is better than having none. In that way, our local tourism would not die,” he told the Inquirer.

Tumulak said he was not expecting many visitors to Oslob, especially since only tourists from Cebu province are allowed at the moment. Most of those who came to town before the pandemic were from Luzon and abroad, he said.

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VISITORS WELCOME Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia leads the reopening of Oslob town to local tourists seeking to interact with whale sharks. —PHOTO COURTESY OF CEBU PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE

Losses

Except for Talisay City and the towns of Minglanilla and Consolacion, which are under general community quarantine (GCQ), all localities in Cebu province have been placed under a more relaxed modified GCQ starting on June 29, allowing the resumption of tourism-related activities.

“We have to limit the number of visitors. At this point, we don’t have to hurry. We resume operations subject to health protocols. So far, we’re OK,” Tumulak said.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia led the relaunching of the tourism activity in Oslob, 118 kilometers south of Cebu City, on July 31.

Oslob has become a prime tourism destination on the island due to its whale sharks. Although whale sharks were first sighted in its waters in the 1950s, the town realized their potential to attract tourists only in 2011.

The town lost as much as P35 million in income after whale shark watching activities were suspended for four months due to restrictions caused by the health crisis, Tumulak said.

Garcia, along with officials from the Department of Tourism and the Department of Trade and Industry, also opened the island-hopping adventure, scuba diving, and sardine run activities in Moalboal town as well as eco-adventure activities in Barili town, including its dolphin watching and all-terrain vehicle tours.

No walk-in guests, however, will be allowed in all travel destinations on the island.

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Garcia said those who wanted to visit the tourist destinations in the province should register through an online portal managed by the Cebu Provincial Tourism Task Force.

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