Inter-agency team to visit south Cebu amid travel ban

CEBU CITY -- Amid concerns aired by tourism stakeholders on the effect of the travel advisory released by the United Kingdom, an inter-agency team will visit major tourist destinations in southern Cebu on Sunday, the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) said.

OPAV Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerard Gonzales told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview on Thursday that the team will visit the tourism towns of Badian and Oslob.

The stakeholders in these towns, he said, are wary that the travel ban would directly affect the tourist arrival count.

The warning, posted by the UK government on its official website, advised its citizens “against all travel”, specifically mentioning  “southern Cebu”, as among the places with Mindanao, following the twin explosions at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu last January 27.

Gonzales said the visit of the inter-agency team was the decision reached after Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino met with military and police officials last Tuesday.

The inter-agency team, which includes representatives of the Department of Tourism 7 (Central Visayas), Police Regional Office (PRO) 7, the military's Central Command, and local officials, will hold a dialogue with tourism stakeholders in towns affected by the advisory, Gonzales said.

“The purpose of the visit is to send a message to the whole world that Cebu, particularly the southern part of the province, is safe for travel,” he said.

PRO-7 Director, Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, said the police will participate in the visit to ensure residents and visitors of the towns in the south of Cebu that “we are generally peaceful.”

“Actually, Central Visayas is generally peaceful. We don’t have any report of any imminent threat. But we are ready in case of any eventuality,” Sinas said.

During the emergency conference at the PRO-7 last Wednesday, local chief executives from the towns of Oslob and Badian, where foreign tourists have been visiting beach resorts and waterfalls, expressed their trust that the police and the military can respond to any untoward incident.

Badian Mayor Carmencita Lumain said tourism stakeholders in her town are ready to discuss with the inter-agency team their safety and security concerns. The town of Badian is famous for the Kawasan Falls that is frequently visited by local and foreign tourists.

Meanwhile, Oslob Mayor Jose Tumulak Jr. said the inter-agency visit will culminate in his town, which is a home to the famous “butanding” (whaleshark).

Gonzales said the Philippine Coast Guard will conduct a sail off the coast of Barangay Tan-awan, Oslob during the inter-agency visit. (PNA)

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