MANILA, Philippines – Businesses are anxious about a backlash from would-be travelers after simultaneous blasts hit 2 of Palawan’s most well-known tourist points El Nido and Puerto Princesa on Thursday, April 5.
Puerto Princesa-Sabang, El Nido and Coron are the province’s most high-profile tourist destinations and could be considered the best places to target to attract national and international attention. The Armed Forces however has ruled out involvement by the Abu Sayyaf, which had been previously associated with terrorism and kidnapping activities in Palawan.
Blasting away a picture perfect image
Former El Nido Mayor Leonor Corral explained that most tourists were coming back from island-hopping tours, the main activity in El Nido, when the first explosion went off around 5:30 pm on the beachfront.
The explosive was placed inside a garbage bin in front of Entalula Cottages, a small, mid-priced beachfront accommodation on the northern part of the town proper.
A maid who was cleaning the front of the Entalula hotel injured her arm in the explosion.
El Nido has no hospital of its own and the clinic isn’t equipped to handle major accidents so her employer, Henry Fernandez, sent the maid on a 6-hour trip to Puerto Princesa on board a private van.
Palawan’s capital, the booming tourist city of Puerto Princesa was hit by an explosion about 10 minutes after the one in El Nido.
Puerto Princesa’s spectacular Underground River, running beneath limestone cliffs and emptying into the sea, put Palawan on the international tourist map after it was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
It had also been recently recognized as one of the world’s “New 7 Wonders of Nature.“
The national park is expected to increase visitors by 20% from 2011. It had hit the 625,000 visitor mark this year, according to an article in the Inquirer. The city state projected tourism would soar to nearly 2 million visitors a year by 2016, said the report.
The explosive in the capital was hidden in a sack of rice, near a bus terminal and gas station. Police said a tricycle driver and his passenger were injured. All in all, 3 were reported hurt in early reports.
The bomb-incident is a first for El Nido, said a local priest there who asked people to pray for peace in their Holy Week prayers.
Long-term effects on tourism still unknown
A day after the blasts, El Nido tourism officer Arvin Aquino couldn’t say yet what the impact would be, explaining that they would have to count cancellations of bookings over the year.
The bombs went off during the Holy Week, a particularly busy period for tourism since many people leave the cities to spend the holidays in the provinces.
The explosions happened during the peak tourism season, which runs from November up to June.
Romelyn Casumpang, who manages logistics for tourist trips and film crews, is worried about the bomb’s impact on tourism. “We expect a big group next week. I hope they will still come despite this news. This is a peaceful place,” she said.
Like other business people in the area, she had been anticipating a tourist boom and is bothered by the news of the explosions. “I hope we don’t have cancellations. I already invested in boats for the influx of tourists this summer season,” said Casumpang.
“Survivor Sweden” is currently on its 1st week of shooting on the island of Pasandigan, which is away from the usual island-hopping destinations. The series came to the island last year as well and Casumpang is banking on a successful 2nd shoot.
“This Survivor is really important for my income this year. ” She said, “They are staying here for a month and I was commissioned to provide some of their needs. I hope they don’t cancel because of this little incident.” With reports from Lala Rimando – Rappler.com