‘SAFETY IS PRIORITY’: Officials push Chinese tourist ban despite economic impact

D’ Mall in Boracay Island is one of the busiest spots in the tourist haven. A temporary ban on Chinese tourists in the country will certainly affect local tourism but it would be more costly if public health is neglected, according officials in Western Visayas. (F. A. Angelo)

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

Local officials in Western Visayas on Thursday said that the temporary ban on Chinese tourists will have an impact on the tourism and economy of the region.

According to Ro-Ann Bacal, regional director of National Economic Development and Authority (NEDA) VI, the temporary ban will take a toll on businesses, tourism, and the transportation sector in the region that caters to the Chinese guests.

“There will be an impact to the establishments that cater to these visitors from the hotels, restaurants, transportation,” she said in an interview on Friday.

Still, Bacal said she supports the move of President Rodrigo Duterte to ban Chinese tourists from the country emphasizing that it will be more expensive for the region if the novel coronavirus enters its borders.

“It is better for us to protect our citizens from potential danger because it will be more expensive for us and it might even be more devastating once the virus has spread. This is a preventive move of our officials,” she added.

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go has confirmed on Friday that President Rodrigo Duterte has given the green light for the temporary travel ban on visitors from Wuhan City and entire Hubei province in China following the confirmation of the first case of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the country.

The temporary ban of Chinese tourists in the white sand beaches of Boracay also worried Malay mayor Floribar Bautista.

Bautista said the tourism industry of Boracay will suffer the most once the ban will be imposed.

“Dako nga impact gid ina sa aton tourism industry kay ang mga Chinese nag-rank as second in terms of the tourist arrivals in Boracay,” he said in a phone interview on Friday.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 6 indicated that 363,283 tourists visited Boracay in the first nine months of 2019, a national daily reported.

Despite this, Bautista said he will consider the temporary ban of Chinese tourists on the island together with the municipal health board as the safety of the locals is still their top priority.

“For the sake of safety, of course. We are talking about the health concern here and the health of our people is our priority,” he stressed.

According to Bautista, Councilor Maylyn Aguirre-Graf has already proposed the temporary ban of Chinese tourists in Boracay.

In the region, Guimaras province has also imposed a temporary ban on incoming tourists and guests from Wuhan City, China without health clearance.

Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin issued Executive Order (EO) No. 15 on Friday directing all municipal mayors to temporarily suspend the entry and tours of guests from Wuhan, China and those from other countries and areas without due clearance from the BOQ.

“While the Department of Health (DOH) is in close coordination with its concerned agencies, there is a need for immediate action at the local level particularly to protect the inhabitants and the agri-eco tourism industry of the province of Guimaras,” he said.

The governor also underscored the need of the province to strictly monitor all its entry points amid threats of the novel coronavirus.

“While BOQ remains on high alert and is in constant coordination with authorities from all ports of entry for stricter border surveillance, the province of Guimaras likewise needs to have full vigilance and security in all its entry points as of Jan. 31, three cases are under investigation in Western Visayas,” he said.

On Thursday, DOH confirmed the first case of the novel coronavirus in the country who is a 38-year-old female from Wuhan, China.

As of Friday, DOH reported that 31 are considered persons under investigation for 2019-nCoV in the country, four of which are from Western Visayas.