DOT, Rizal LGU seek to revitalize tourism after keeping COVID-19 cases in check
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Wednesday announced that it is working closely with the local executives of the Province of Rizal in reopening its tourist spots for domestic tourists.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and local officials of Rizal said in a press briefing that the province, which is currently under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), is ready to slowly and safely reboot its tourism sector.
“After being closed for several months in 2020, tourism in Rizal is slowly but surely picking up, bringing back jobs and the much-needed revenue to the province,” Puyat said.
“I invite all of the Filipinos, not only from Metro Manila but from the rest of the country, to explore your backyard [here in] Rizal,” said Antipolo City 1st District Provincial Board Member Roberto Andres Puno Jr., highlighting the province’s “rich offerings” in terms of tourism such as religious tourism, eco-tourism, and food tourism.
Green Corridor Initiative
To aid in the gradual recovery of tourism in Rizal, the tourism department crafted a domestic tourism program called the Green Corridor Initiative or GCI.
This flagship project of the DOT Region IV-A aims to encourage more travelers to visit the multi-faceted province of Rizal, also known as the “Cradle of Philippine Art.” It also seeks to feature the Faith, Food, Art, Adventure, and Nature (FFAAN) Experience tourism cluster in the province.
“Through the GCI, the City of Antipolo and the Municipalities of Angono, Taytay, and Cainta are interlinked in the safety of a travel bubble, furthering the DOT’s commitment to promoting the province as a fun, sustainable and safe destination,” said Puyat.
According to her, some of the most sought-out tourist sites during the “new normal” are places that are focused on nature and eco-tourism.
“We had two travel surveys, the first survey we did last May. Tinanong naming kung ano yung mga preferences ng mga tao… and they want open-air, open space and lumalabas palagi is culture and heritage,” she detailed.
(We had two travel surveys, the first survey we did last May. We asked the respondents about their preferences and they wanted open-air, open space, as well as tourist spots that highlight culture and heritage.)
“Our second travel survey ganoon din ang lumabas. We had it last November. Lumalabas palagi is culture and heritage,” she added.
(The same thing was also reflected in our second survey last November.)
Health and safety protocols
Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit said during the press conference that the province will not require COVID-19 Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests for domestic travelers.
“Rizal is considered a dormitory province. In fact, we have up to 450,000 vehicles crossing every day to Metro Manila. These are residents from here that work there on [weekdays] then we have the opposite flow,” Duavit explained.
“[Ang] traffic namin dito 24/7 every day of the week. People from here want to go out and people from outside want to come in. The traffic is actually both ways,” he added.
The congressman likewise cited the “readiness” of the people of Rizal in terms of following the basic health and safety protocols.
“Kung iikot kayo ng Rizal, anywhere even in the most casual setting, you will see that almost one hundred percent of the time people are wearing face masks, people have at least their face shield on their head if not covering their eyes,” he said.
(If you will roam around Rizal, anywhere even in the most casual setting, you will see that almost one hundred percent of the time people are wearing face masks, people have at least their face shield on their head if not covering their eyes.)
“What we’ve been trying to drum up here is that yung COVID safety is a personal safety,” he continued.
Puyat emphasized that those who are planning to visit the province should also comply with the said protocols which include wearing face masks and face shields, observing physical distancing, and frequent hand washing.
“Rizal is under MGCQ, ibig sabihin mababa ang cases or they have already controlled the cases. Ang GCQ (general community quarantine) ay NCR (National Capital Region). But I really believe, I’ve been going around the country every week, as long as there are health and safety protocols in place, we can restart tourism,” the DOT secretary said.
(Rizal is under MGCQ, meaning that they have low COVID-19 cases or have already controlled the cases. NCR is the one under GCQ. I really believe, I’ve been going around the country every week, as long as there are health and safety protocols in place, we can restart tourism.)
“Yun lang lagi naming pinapaalala sa lahat. Kasi yung mga iba they think pag negative na sila sa COVID, or as long as open-air, they can have parties and they can do whatever they want,” she added.
(That is what we always remind everyone because some people think that if they are COVID-19 negative or as long as their destination is open-air they can have parties and they can do whatever they want.)
The tourism chief stated that the department will continue to strictly monitor the compliance of DOT-accredited establishments with the Department of Health (DOH) public health standards as well as the DOT health and safety guidelines (HSG).
“With several ongoing initiatives to spur tourism, we have to ensure that there are adequate accredited establishments to serve and accommodate visitors. As of February 28, there are 95 accredited accommodation establishments in Region 4A, nine of which are from Rizal,” she said.
Meanwhile, the DOT, in partnership with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), has been working on tourism infrastructure projects since last year to provide better access roads to sites such as the Bunsuran Falls and Mystical Cave, both in Antipolo.
All-time favored tourist destination
Due to its close proximity to Metro Manila, Puyat said that the province has long been a favored destination for land travelers.
In 2020, Rizal recorded 7,200,454 same-day tourism arrivals and 395,364 overnight tourism arrivals, “helping it emerge as the top contributor for Overnight Tourism Arrivals in the Region and accounting for 36% of the region’s total tourism arrivals,” the tourism secretary said.
The province was also the top contributor for same-day tourism arrivals last year after generating 60 percent of the region’s total tourism arrivals.
“Earlier this year, I added myself to the statistics as I visited a few establishments in Rizal, including the famous Burrow Café at the Antipolo Beehouse, the impressive Pinto Art Museum, and the splendid ArtSector Gallery and Café in Binangonan; it was just a small but eye-opening sampling of what Rizal really has to offer,” Puyat shared.
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