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Puyat visits Batangas, shores up dive tourism

Mabini, Batangas — Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Wednesday (Dec. 9), expressed support for the continued development of dive tourism in Anilao, otherwise known as the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines.

During the stakeholders meeting hosted by Mabini Mayor Noel Luistro, Secretary Puyat encouraged the business sector, the dive establishment operators in particular, to strictly uphold health and safety protocols as well as to work together to improve the readiness of their area for dive tourism during the quarantine period and onwards to the new normal.

“The Department is hard at work not only for the slow but sure reopening of our destinations but also on the persistent but guarded development of the dive tourism industry,” Puyat said in her opening remarks.

Puyat, who also chairs the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), the DOT’s attached agency mandated to implement the safety standards for dive tourism, attested to the challenges of the diving industry during COVID. These include the non-compliance of some dive establishments on the minimum health and safety guidelines, the low revenue and high unemployment rates, the lack of trained medical personnel to operate the hyperbaric chamber, the need for installation and maintenance of mooring buoys to protect dive sites, and the high cost of COVID-19 tests, among others.

For its part, the PCSSD commits to continue waiving the accreditation fees for dive establishments and professionals; conducting subsidized trainings for dive professionals; organizing events that will attract guests; providing either online or hybrid platform for selling and promoting dive packages throughout the dive media network and community.

The tourism chief also cited efforts to lower the cost of RT-PCR tests required of tourists to make traveling more appealing and affordable. For his part, Mayor Luistro agreed to pay for the RT-PCR tests of all tourism front liners in his area.

“We must continue to hold hands and use this period as an opportune time to reassess our programs, projects and activities to make them more responsive to the needs of the dive tourism sector,” she added.

As of 05 December, the DOT Region 4A has issued 51 Provisional Certificates of Authority to Operate (PCAO) to dive establishments in Mabini, Batangas, 28 of which are PCSSD-accredited.

Anilao has more than 40 documented dive sites and serves as a playground to underwater macro photographers due to the notable presence of nudibranchs and other critters.

It consistently leads as a macro diving destination in several global surveys of world-renowned dive media such as Scuba Diving Magazine’s Readers Choice Awards and Sport Diver.

The dive establishments in attendance include Saltitude Dive & Beach Resort, Mabini Boat Owners Association , Anilao Macro Spotters Inc., Kapit Balai, Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort, Casa Escondida Anilao Resort & Dive Center, Solitude Acacia Resort, Philpan Diving Resort, 200 Bar Dive Shop, Aiyanar Beach & Dive Resort, Anilao Matahari, Anilao Photo Academy, Arthur’s Place Dive Resort, Anilao Scuba Dive Center, Bontoc Seaview Guest House, Casa Bahia Dive Resort, Pier Uno Dive Resort, Rustique Rue, Vivere Azure, Amor Laut (Vistamar), Camp Netanya Resort & Spa, and Anilao Awari Bay Resort.

DOT presents virtual concert to promote Manila’s cultural heritage sites

The Department of Tourism (DOT), through the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), takes a step further in promoting Manila’s cultural heritage sites, collaborating with The Manila Heritage Trail and Manila Heritage Alliance to bring a free virtual concert titled “Hinahanap-Hanap Kita Manila” bannering the music of iconic band Hotdog to performed by various OPM artists.

“The Hinahanap-Hanap Kita Manila concert will give us the warmth of nostalgia just in time for the holidays. Get ready to sing along to hit songs of Hotdog — Annie Batungbakal, Bongga ka Day, Beh Buti Nga, Ikaw ang Miss Universe, and of course, Manila, which are just a few of the tracks that have contributed so much to the city’s colorful musical and cultural scene, all while visiting iconic Manila sites from the comforts of your home,” enthused Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who is set to join Mayor Isko Moreno as special guests at the online event broadcasting on December 13.

The tourism chief shared that the virtual concert is a continuation of the long-running Concert at the Park and Paco Park Presents events of the National Parks and Development Committee (NPDC). Among the sites to be featured in the concert are Manila City Hall, Luneta, Paco Park, Intramuros, Museo Pambata, National Planetarium and Jones Bridge.

“In addition to promoting local travel and the live events industry, we want to offer inspiration to all Filipinos in these trying times,” Puyat explained.

The Hinahanap-Hanap Kita Manila Concert will be headlined by Bras Pas Pas Pas Pas with Raymund Marasigan, Ebe Dancel, Armi Millare, Yeng Constantino, Blaster Silonga, Nicole Laurel Asensio, Bing Austria, Bea Lorenzo, Rubber Inc., and Gary Valenciano. Boyet Sison will host the event with the concert’s various legs creatively directed by Juno Oebanda, RA Rivera, Paolo Valenciano, Jason Tan, Alco Guerrero and Quark Henares. The concert is produced by Juno Oebanda, Dindin Araneta and Jezreel Apelar with DOT Culture & Arts of Manila Chief Charlie Duñgo and NPDC Executive Director Cecille Romero at the helm.

The concert will be co-presented by the City of Manila, Juancare Foundation Inc., and Viva Music Publishing Inc., and will be available for streaming on the Facebook pages of the DOT, TPB, Intramuros Administration, Nayong Pilipino and NPDC.

DOT, MakatiMed Foundation forge partnership for tourism destination health security

The Department of Tourism (DOT) through its partner, the Makati Medical Center Foundation Inc. (MakatiMed Foundation) received strong support for its pandemic response and security initiatives in local tourism destinations in light of the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and MakatiMed Foundation Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan signed a joint Manifesto of Support to formalize the partnership.

“Today, as we sign this joint manifesto, I am putting my faith again in the Makati Med Foundation to replicate their achievements in Boracay and enhance the level of health security in other parts of the country,” Puyat said.

The Makati Medical Group has provided assistance to the Ciriaco S. Tirol Hospital and Boracay Clinic by way of medical equipment and training for the local medical staff. Partnerships and collaboration with various entities of the MVP Group, including the Makati Medical Foundation, SMART, the PLDT-Smart Foundation, and the Metro Pacific Foundation have dramatically improved Boracay’s health and communications capabilities.

Another tourist destination eyed to benefit from the partnership is Siargao.

Under the manifesto, the MVP group commits to train and provide technical assistance to local public hospitals in designated tourism destinations, donate appropriate hospital equipment and media supplies as hospitals prepare to resume full operations and re-open to tourists, and carry out strategic health security interventions, projects, and programs in various tourism sites.

“We, at the DOT, are blessed to have partners that have enabled tourism to reboot and start anew, partners that wholly support our advocacies and initiatives on our continuing path to recovery,” Puyat added.

MakatiMed Foundation President Victor L. Gisbert and DOT OIC Undersecretary Roberto P. Alabado III are the other signatories to the Manifesto.

DOT launches webinar training on Reducing Single-use Plastics for hospitality sector

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has collaborated with the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc. (PCEPSDI) in holding a webinar training program for the hospitality sector to reduce single-use plastics while keeping in mind health and safety protocols.

The DOT is inviting hotels, resorts and other enterprises to a training webinar entitled “Responsible Tourism through Plastic Upcycling and Waste Management” on December 15 at 1:30 PM. This training is organized by the Transforming Tourism Value Chains (TVC) project, in cooperation with UN Environment (UNEP) and Clean our Oceans Project (CoOp), with guest speakers from World Wide Fund for Nature – Philippines (WWF).

This webinar aims to educate the hospitality sector on how to reduce plastic usage to help save marine life and from the COVID-19 pandemic. Interested participants can register through this link: https://bit.ly/PlasticUpcyclingWasteManagementReg

The initiative is part of DOT’s Save Our Spots campaign to unite the tourism sector in addressing the causes of plastic pollution by enabling stakeholders to reduce plastic usage and encourage their guests to take part in the change. The campaign directly supports the Roadmap for Low-Carbon and Resource-Efficient Tourism in the Philippines, a strategic document that pushes for sustainability and growth by protecting the natural beauty of the Philippines.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, plastic waste worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the increase in the usage of single-use plastic for hygienic purposes. The UNEP adds that these plastics are being washed into the world’s ocean every year, affecting marine biodiversity. Meanwhile, One Planet Network also stated that tourism is affected by plastic pollution since 80% of destinations are located in coastal areas.

Other organizations taking part in the campaign include Reef World Foundation and Philippine Hotel Owners Association, Inc.

To know more about the campaign, visit DOT and TVC’s Official Facebook Pages.

DOT to assist Zambales in safe and gradual tourism reopening

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.”