Bohol to get P2.1 billion World Bank loan to revive pandemic-hit tourism sector – tourism chief

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MANILA – Bohol Province is set to get at least P2.1 billion in funding from the Philippine government as it aims to reinvigorate its local tourism industry hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a visit to the province, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said funding will come from a World Bank loan.

She added, some of the projects that will be funded are those for bulk water supply, solid waste management, a public market program, tourism site enhancement and management, disaster risk management support for hygiene preparedness, as well as the acquisition of decompression chambers and a sea ambulance.

Romulo-Puyat said these are all just the first phase of boosting the tourism sector of Bohol, which is known for the Chocolate Hills and pristine beaches.

The local government of Bohol targets to open up its tourism industry by the fourth quarter of 2020, in close coordination with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the Department of Tourism.

Bohol Governor Arthur Yap said aside from complying with national standards, they're also pushing for a local accreditation process for tourism players with the "Ultimate Bohol Experience" standard.

He said this is to ensure local tourism players will follow not just the health and hygiene protocols, but also guidelines on parking lot ratios, sewage treatment plant requirement, carrying capacity, and the ratio of renewable energy they're contracting.

"That's what Bohol is all about, it's about the sustainable, eco-agri tourism. We want to protect our patrimony to make sure that these are going to be here for ages to come," Yap explained.

"I think it's necessary, but not just necessary, I think it's a surmountable requirement."

Meanwhile, Romulo-Puyat said the Philippine government is already in talks with countries with manageable COVID-19 cases, for possible bilateral flight agreements that can benefit local tourist sites like Bohol.

These include South Korea, Japan, and even Australia which are all among the traditional big sources of foreign tourists for the Philippines.

"We've been having informal talks, together with the DFA, but of course everything is fluid. But then we've already been talking that once travel restrictions have been lifted, we can already talk about direct flights," Romulo-Puyat said.

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