CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The Economy Task Group of the Northern Mindanao Task Force for COVID-19 aims to test the “tourism bubble” strategy as means to revive local tourism. 

The “tourism bubble” concept would allow local tourists to experience leisure travel within specified areas. The strategy also recommends the lifting of age restrictions to revive family trips. This is seen to boost local tourism, as well as, allowing people breaks, while strictly complying with minimum health protocols such as social distancing and through limited booking slots.

During the Task Group’s 16th Meeting at Pinegrove Mountain Lodge at Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon on 13 October 2020 held concurrently with a virtual conference, digital infrastructure developments in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic were also discussed with major telecoms players Globe Telecom, Inc., Smart Communications, Inc., and DITO Telecommunity reporting efforts at improving connectivity in the region.

When asked on the company’s stand on the pronouncement of President Duterte during his 2020 State of the Nation Address on improving the services of major telecommunications companies, Mr. James Lopez of Globe Telecom said, “We heed the President’s call.  We are upgrading our connectivity from 3G to 4G and we’re very excited to see this through by the end of this year.”

Lopez explained that one solution to the connectivity problem is to put in place more cell sites, catering to the increasing number of internet users nationwide. Telecommunication service providers face challenges in the approval of cell site construction, an area that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is reviewing to fast-track the permitting process.

Smart Communications, Inc. representative, Mr. Anthony Teloren reported that Misamis Oriental now has 98 percent LTE coverage per Smart cell site.

Both Smart and Globe received the green light from local government units in the region to roll out new cell sites in the last quarter of the year to 2021.

As for its part, newcomer DITO Telecommunity expressed concern over the rising cases of personas claiming affiliation with their company. DITO representative Vic Bungcayao clarified that they are still in the process of testing and cautions LGUs against dubious characters. The country’s third major telecommunications provider was granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity by the NTC in July 2019. It is set to launch by the first quarter of 2021.

“I hope you will consider all the development prospects of the region. There is the Panguil Bay Bridge Project, the Bukidnon Airport Development, and in 2025, we might even see the metropolization of Cagayan de Oro. Yes, we are in the pandemic, but we see this as short-term and that we are poised for the further development set by next year,” noted Dir. Mylah Faye Aurora B. Cariño, CESO III, Economy Task Group Head and NEDA-X Regional Director.

The Northern Mindanao Regional Development Council had earlier endorsed Resolution No. 55 (s. 2019) “Enjoining the Local Government Units to Comply with Republic Act 11032, otherwise known as the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 by Streamlining the Issuance of Local Permits and Standardizing the Timelines for the Construction of Cellular Base Towers.”