(File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday urged the public to help boost the country's economy by traveling locally when protocols are already in place.

"The tourism and recreation industries, which are among the hardest hit by the pandemic, count on our full support... We enjoin our people to help boost the economy by traveling locally once the necessary systems are in place," the President said in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

Duterte also called on both national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to "harmonize" policies on domestic tourism and to ensure that travelers are safe amid the pandemic.

In 2019 alone, tourism's contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was pegged at 12.7 percent.

Similarly, the employment it generated increased from 5.36 million in 2018 to 5.71 million in 2019, translating to an additional 350,000 jobs before the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) struck.

After the pandemic crippled the industry with a succession of border closures and airline groundings, the Department of Tourism (DOT) had since placed its hope on domestic travel to revive the sector as foreign markets remain in their respective countries.

At present, tourism operations are only allowed at half capacity in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), subject to the LGUs' approval.

While several provinces have already shifted to MGCQ and are technically allowed to accept leisure travelers, a number of destinations remain close to tourists pending guidelines issued by their respective LGUs.

The first destination to reopen amid the new normal is the world-renowned Boracay Island, but only to tourists from Western Visayas.

Palawan is poised to follow as it plans to resume activities in the towns of El Nido, Coron, and San Vicente once safety and health protocols have been set in place. No specific date, however, has been announced yet. (PNA) #DuterteSONA2020 #WeRiseAsOne