IN PHOTOS: Oslob’s whale shark watching under the ‘new normal’
OSLOB, Cebu – The Cebu Provincial Government on Friday, July 31, led the ceremonial reopening of its tourism industry with whale shark watching in Barangay Tan-awan in Oslob town.
The even that was also participated by representatives of other government agencies and stakeholders marked the official start of a three-day event that is aimed at reviving the local tourism industry following about four months of disruption caused by the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Under the ‘new normal’, guests who want to experience Oslob’s famous attraction are advised to first register with the provincial government’s online booking site as tourist spots in Cebu will be subject to a limited number of visitors per day.
Instead of allowing 10 people, Mark Rendon, president of Tan-awan Sea Wardens and Fishermen’s Association (TOSFWA), said they will only allow a maximum of five individuals to board their boats at a time. He said this is part of their agreement with the Capitol to ensure physical distancing even during whale shark watching.
“We have also prepared distancing markers and a waiting area for guests so that we can control the crowd coming into the shorelines,” Rendon said in Cebuano.
Visitors, who would want to try the tourism enterprise that helped the municipal government earn as much as P132 million in 2019, according to data from the Commission on Audit, will also be required to wear face masks, he said.
“Swimming and snorkeling are still allowed once visitors get to go out into the sea. But previous rules such as no touching of the whale sharks are still in effect,” added Rendon.
There are close to 300 boatmen in Oslob, a fourth-class municipality, who rely on whale share watching for their livelihood.
Rendon said that with new rules limiting the number of guests, who want to experience whale shark watching, TOSFWA members will be assigned on different shift schedules per day to make sure that all of them will have a chance to earn.
“Before, we can accommodate around 2,000 guests in a day. But now under the new normal, with fewer than usual visitors expected, we decided that we will be working around through schedules,” he explained in Cebuano.
Whale shark watching in Barangay Tan-awan normally takes about 30 minutes, and once the boat goes back to shore, boatmen will instruct guests to disembark one-by-one and have their hands disinfected.
Starting on Saturday, August 1, Oslob Mayor Jose ‘Jun’ Tumulak said their town, which is situated more than 110 kilometers southeast of Cebu City, will already start accepting guests.
Cebu province is now under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most relaxed form of community quarantine./ dcb
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