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More Luzon towns reopen doors to tourists

/ 04:17 AM October 20, 2020

WATCHTOWER The old belfry at the St. Augustine Parish Church grounds in Bantay, Ilocos Sur, used to serve as a watchtower during the Spanish occupation to alert the town and nearby Vigan of approaching enemies. The Bantay bell tower and the heritage district of Vigan City are among the destinations that will be reopened as Ilocos Sur welcomes tourists from the rest of Luzon. —WILLIE LOMIBAO

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur, Philippines —vCiting the growing interest of tourists from Metro Manila to visit Ilocos Sur, Gov. Ryan Singson on Monday said the province would now accept guests from the entire Luzon starting Nov. 15.

The move, Singson said, was in line with the initiative of other areas within the “Ridge and Reef” travel corridor in the Ilocos region that already accepted tourists from Luzon.

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“Rest assured [that] we will do it slowly but surely, with strict consideration of the minimum health standard protocols,” Singson said in a statement.

He said that reviving the local tourism industry would provide jobs to displaced workers in the sector, like carriage drivers, waiters and tour guides.

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Prospective tourists may now visit some of the popular destinations in the province, such as the Vigan Heritage Village and Calle Crisologo, Plaza Salcedo Dancing Fountain, Bantay Bell Tower, Sta. Maria Church and Plaza Burgos.

Ilocos Sur first welcomed back tourists early this month through the travel corridor with Baguio City and the provinces of La Union, Pangasinan and Ilocos Norte.

Slow start

Officials of Baguio and Ilocos Norte had earlier announced that they would widen the travel corridor to include Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.Since Oct. 1, only four out of 60 tourists who applied for strictly regulated leisure travel have passed the screening in Baguio. Part of the problem may be the requirement for visitors to sign up for tour packages that will dictate their movement in the city.

The first batch of tourists in Ilocos Norte arrived on Oct. 15 after a seven-month border closure due to the pandemic.

Aianree Raquel, provincial tourism officer, attributed the slow return of visitors to the strict health protocols and travel requirements.Only four visited the province but more would be arriving in the last week of October, Raquel said, citing reports from tour operators.

Resorts

In Bulacan, Eliseo dela Cruz, provincial tourism officer, said only 40 percent of the 200 resorts in the province had resumed operations but they had been following strict health protocols.

In Bataan province, only three of 20 beach resorts in the coastal town of Bagac have opened since last week.

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Most resort owners said they were hesitant to open for fear of losing investment owing to a number of requirements imposed by the local governments.

In Zambales province, Ma. Fe Acebedo, assistant tourism officer of San Antonio town, said beach resort and campsite owners had begun processing documents and proposals for the reopening of their businesses.

Reports from Leoncio Balbin Jr., Yolanda Sotello, Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Greg Refraccion and Joaana Rose Aglibot

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Luzon tourism, Ryan Singson, travel restrictions
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