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SAMAR, Philippines – About 90% of tourism facilities in Southern Leyte were damaged during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette (Rai) in December 2021, the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Eastern Visayas said on Friday, January 7.
“Odette affected numerous tourism enterprises in Southern Leyte,” said DOT regional director Karen Tiopes.
Diving resort owners suffered substantial losses – they lost boats and gears as well.
There were also damaged tourism establishments in the 1st, 2nd, and 5th districts of Leyte, but the DOT has yet to make a complete assessment.
Tiopes said the DOT central office would start recovery and rehabilitation programs for tourism establishments in Odette-affected areas.
“These may come in the form of facilitating access to soft loans, cash-for-work programs, product development, skills building in line with the offering of new tourism products, post-disaster marketing, and promotion,” Tiopes said.
As part of its damage assessment for rehabilitation recommendation and resiliency measures, DOT Eastern Visayas is preparing to launch a program called “volun-tourism.”
DOT Eastern Visayas is currently assisting a team of experts from the University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Manila University, and the University of the Philippines in conducting an assessment of the seven stone heritage churches under the Diocese of Maasin.
But the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat posed by the more transmissible Omicron variant would be a challenge in the DOT efforts.
DOT Eastern Visayas said it would follow operational guidelines for specific alert levels, but pointed out that local governments were allowed to issue their own rules.
“For now, Eastern Visayas is still on Alert Level 2. So far, Ormoc is the first LGU [local government unit] that reverted to strict entry protocols to deter the spread of the Omicron variant in the city. We are waiting for other LGUs to issue their executive orders as well,” Tiopes said.
DOH Eastern Visayas information officer Jelyn Lopez-Malibago told Rappler that they were allowing local governments to implement stricter measures after a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the easing of travel protocols during the holidays.
DOT Eastern Visayas recorded 90 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total active cases to 184 in the region as of Friday, January 7. – Rappler.com
Lance Lim is a Visayas-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship