MANILA, Philippines – Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco has instructed regional offices to coordinate with local government units to extend assistance to tourism-related establishments affected by the earthquake that shook northern regions of Luzon last July 27.
“My concern and sympathy are one with those affected by the recent earthquake in North Luzon. The Ministry will provide all possible assistance to the actors and tourist establishments directly affected by this incident. I have instructed the regional DOT offices in North Luzon to continue assessing the extent of the damage and immediately submit the report for our appropriate actions and assistance,” Frasco said.
“Our resilience as a nation has already proven itself in the past. I am sure this can be strengthened by the essential collaboration between our national agencies, local governments and crucial stakeholders as we overcome our challenges,” she added.
In addition to tourist establishments, the earthquake also affected cultural and heritage sites. Frasco then asked the infrastructure arm of the Ministry of Tourism, the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), to explore what assistance it can provide to quake-affected sites.
According to initial reports, at least two churches, declared National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum of the Philippines, were affected while several heritage and ancestral homes also suffered notable damage due to the earthquake.
“We will ask TIEZA to prioritize the assessment of cultural treasures affected by the recent earthquake recognizing the need to protect and maintain our heritage and cultural treasures for the benefit and well-being of our future generations. “said Tourism Secretary Frasco.
Here is an overview of tourist destinations and private property damaged by the intense earthquake according to the initial report from DOT regional offices in Region 1 and the Cordillera Administrative Region:
In Abra, where the earthquake’s epicenter was recorded, damaged tourist sites included the Sta Catalina de Alejandria Church, a 19th-century Baroque church and declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2001.
The sanctuary of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Bangued, one of the oldest churches in Abra built in the early 1920s, was also among the heritage structures affected. It has red clay brick detailing on its facade, nave and twin bell towers.
In Ilocos Sur, the heritage town of Vigan, known for its Spanish and Asian colonial architecture, reported damage from the earthquake.
Among the structures concerned are the following:
- Vigan Cathedral
- Maison Syquia, an ancestral house turned into a museum in Vigan – Collapsed side wall and windows
- Hotel Linda – Minor damage
- Ancestral houses along the Vigan Heritage Village
- Bantay Bell Tower in Bantay, Ilocos Sur – Almost Collapsed
- Church of St. John the Baptist in San Juan, Ilocos Sur – Damage recorded to its facade and ceiling
Meanwhile, an initial report showed multiple ground faults in one of the most visited sites, the Santa Ana beach area.
The Philippines’ summer capital also felt the quake with two accommodation establishments reporting minor cracks in their buildings. The hotels affected are the Lafaayette Luxury Suites Hotel and Crown who will not be accepting visitors to ensure the safety of guests and staff in the meantime.
Two properties managed and owned by TIEZA also reported damage from the quake. This is the Banaue Hotel and Hostel in Ifugao. Its riprap and ceiling have partially collapsed, according to initial reports.
The earthquake also caused the chimney ceiling and lobby of the Mt. Data Hotel in Bauko, Mt. Province to collapse. His several hotel decorations were also damaged.
TIEZA said reservations at the two hotels will be canceled in the meantime as the agency conducts a thorough assessment.
Despite the reported damage, the DOT said no tourists were injured.
He advised people with travel plans in the northern Luzon region to take extra precautions.
On Wednesday, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) expressed its commitment to help rehabilitate damaged historic sites and structures. He said “many of them have been a part of people’s life for centuries” and are declared National Historic Monuments and Important Cultural Properties, which are protected by heritage law.
“For the time being, we will hand over to government agencies carrying out relief operations and meeting the basic needs of the population. We urge our local partners to safeguard the artefacts, recover important parts of the structure necessary for restoration and to provide NHCP with the necessary documentations of destroyed structures and salvaged parts,” said NHCP President Rene Escalante.