DEPARTMENT of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco has directed the DOT regional offices to coordinate with their respective local government units (LGUs) to determine the extent of damage, and extend assistance to tourism-related establishments (TREs) affected by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday morning.
This, following a directive yesterday (Thursday) from President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to lend assistance to the areas affected by the earthquake.
Frasco also directed the DOT’s infrastructure arm, the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), to explore the assistance that the agency can extend particularly on the cultural and heritage sites affected by the intense quake that rocked the northern part of Luzon.
Based on initial reports, at least 2 churches, declared “National Cultural Treasure” by the National Museum of the Philippines were affected while several heritage and ancestral houses also sustained notable damage due to the earthquake.
“We will request TIEZA to prioritize assessment of the cultural treasures affected by the recent earthquake recognizing the need to protect and sustain our heritage and cultural treasures for the benefit and welfare of our future generations,” Frasco said.
Per the initial report of the DOT Regional Offices, particularly Region 1 and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), damage in several tourist destinations as well as private properties were recorded in the following tourist destinations:
In Abra, where the epicenter of the earthquake was recorded, damaged tourism sites included the Sta Catalina de Alejandria Church in the town of Tayum, a 19th century baroque church and declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2001.
Also heavily damaged was the San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine in Bangued, one of the oldest churches in Abra that was built in the early 1920s. It is a heritage structure with red clay brick details on its facade, nave and twin belfries.
The Heritage City of Vigan, known for its Spanish colonial and Asian architecture, recorded damage in popular tourist destinations such as the Vigan Cathedral.
The Syquia House, an ancestral home turned museum in Vigan, reported having a collapsed side wall and windows. The Hotel Linda also reported minor damage as well as several heritage and ancestral houses along the Vigan Heritage Village.
The Bantay Bell Tower in Bantay, Ilocos Sur almost collapsed during the intense quake. The St. John The Baptist Church in San Juan, Ilocos Sur recorded damage to its façade and ceiling.
Meanwhile, multiple ground faulting is visible in the Santa Ana Beach Area, also a favorite tourist spot among visitors.
In Baguio City, two accommodation establishments, the Lafaayette Luxury Suites Hotel and Crown Legacy reported minor cracks in their buildings. In the meantime, both hotels will not accept visitors to ensure the safety of guests and personnel.
Two properties managed and owned by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), DOT’s infrastructure arm, sustained damage as well. The riprap and ceiling of the Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel in Ifugao partially collapsed according to the initial report of the agency.
Meanwhile, the earthquake caused the ceiling in the fireplace and lobby area of the Mt. Data Hotel in Bauko, Mt. Province to collapse, while several hotel decorations were also damaged. According to TIEZA, all bookings will be canceled in both hotels until a thorough assessment has been undertaken.
“My concern and sympathy are one with those who have been affected by the recent earthquake in Northern Luzon. The Department will extend whatever help it can to tourism stakeholders and establishments that have been directly affected by this incident. I have requested the DOT Regional offices in Northern Luzon to continue with the assessment of the extent of the damage and to immediately submit the report for our appropriate actions and assistance,” Secretary Frasco said.
“Our resilience as a nation has already been tried and tested in the past. I am certain that this can be strengthened by the essential collaboration between our national agencies, local governments, and crucial stakeholders as we conquer our challenges,” she added.
No tourists were reported harmed but those with travel plans to the Northern Luzon area are advised to practice extra precautions.