As Siargao reopens, local tourism expected to pick up
GENERAL LUNA, Surigao del Norte, Philippines — The island paradise of Siargao has reopened to tourists, subject to the necessary health measures, as the Surigao del Norte government lifted the suspension of travel into the province starting Tuesday.
Gov. Francisco Matugas suspended the entry of travelers from Luzon and the Visayas from Aug. 11 to Aug. 31 due to concerns of a possible rise in infections, especially with the detection of cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Matugas said there was a need to boost again the local economy that was devastated by the pandemic while also strengthening implementation of health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
For the tourism-dependent localities on Siargao Island, Matugas’ order will provide a shot in the arm for establishments struggling to keep afloat.
In 2019, the island’s resorts hosted some 200,000 tourists, with foreigners comprising almost half of the arrivals.
On Tuesday, a social media post from the province’s Tourism and Culture Office said tourists coming from areas placed under enhanced community quarantine and modified enhanced community quarantine were still barred from entering the province.
All travelers are required to submit a negative result of a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test done within 48 hours before entry, and a valid identification card.
The requirement for RT-PCR test applies even to those who are vaccinated. The test result should be presented at the airport or seaport of origin and upon arrival in Surigao del Norte. For those traveling by land, this should be presented at a border control checkpoint.
Visitors age 17 and below are not required to present test results.
Despite the suspension of travel into Surigao del Norte since Aug. 11, many visitors still sneaked in through outriggers, especially to Siargao, jumping off from unregulated harbors in Surigao del Sur.
Matugas urged the Coast Guard and other agencies to look into these practices, as these might render measures to stop the spread of the virus on the island useless.
Last week, the Department of Tourism launched a vaccination program for Siargao’s tourism workers. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said the vaccination was on top of the regular drive for the island’s residents.
Vince Dizon, the government’s testing coordinator, said focused vaccination for tourism workers was also done in Palawan, Bohol and Boracay.
—REPORTS FROM ERWIN M. MASCARIÑAS AND RYAN D. ROSAURO
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