As local government leaders of Zambales start to prepare to reopen provincial borders to local visitors, the Department of Tourism (DOT) vowed to provide additional assistance that would intensify health and safety protocols in the province.
“As with all other destinations, I cannot stress enough the importance of enforcing the health and safety protocols. These should be strengthened through public information and communications campaigns. Knowing that these guidelines are in place will restore confidence in tourists visiting the province and assurance among the locals who will be welcoming visitors,” Tourism Chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Friday (December 11) during a planning forum with Zambales local government unit (LGU) leaders and tourism stakeholders to discuss strategies and solutions to existing issues and concerns pivotal to the province’s reopening for tourism.
In keeping with its commitment to the “slow but sure” reopening of tourism destinations, the DOT has agreed to fund a Visitor Management System for Zambales, akin to the Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VIS.I.T.A.) that the DOT provided to Baguio City through its Tourism Promotions Board (TPB).
Puyat said the DOT will also continue its thorough inspection and accreditation of tourism-related establishments in the province, as well as provide additional capability-building trainings on the implementation of health and safety guidelines.
According to data provided by the DOT Region 3 Office, Zambales was among the most visited destinations in Central Luzon. In 2019, it ranked second in the region in terms of tourist arrivals, receiving a total of 755,141 tourists, translating to an estimated Php 1,919,983,000 in tourism expenditure.
The Zambales coastline is most famous for its sandy beaches and deep blue sea teeming with coral reefs which is home to giant clams or as the locals call it, taklobo. It is perfect for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.
To aid tourism businesses and workers of Zambales in recovering from their losses, Puyat cited existing government assistance for the tourism industry such as the financial assistance program for displaced tourism workers of the DOT and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
“The financial assistance program now extends to beneficiaries of both the DSWD’s SAP and DOLE’s CAMP under BAYANIHAN 1; workers of affected establishments that implemented Flexible Work Arrangements or Alternative Work Schemes; and LGU-Licensed Secondary Tourism Enterprises. Please get in touch with our Regional Office. Of course, we want to give it to as many people working in the tourism industry as possible,” Puyat said.
As of December 11, the DOT Region 3 has endorsed 588 beneficiaries from 50 tourism establishments and two community-based tourism organizations in Zambales to receive one-time cash assistance of Php 5,000 through the DOT-DOLE program.
Meanwhile, under the CARES for TRAVEL program between the DOT and the Small Business Corporation (SB Corp), tourism micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will have access to zero interest, no collateral loans with a loan term period of up to four years including a corresponding grace period of up to one year. “The borrower MSMEs will only need to pay a one-time service fee, which is at a maximum of eight percent for a four-year loan,” Puyat added.
Thanking the DOT, private sector, media, and stakeholders, Governor Ebdane remarked, “We had an exchange of ideas, and questions and answers, and we made known our concerns. These are the IATF-EID resolutions and advice of the DOT. What we have had today will be the basis for further discussion through a Technical Working Group. We need the cooperation of everybody to be prepared.”