Tourism slumps in typhoid-hit Calamba


SAN PABLO CITY – Tourism in Calamba City, Laguna’s popular resort town south of Metro Manila, slumped after news broke out about a typhoid outbreak that downed 1,700 people.

The number of regular visitors to the resort facilities, most of which were hot springs, decreased because of the bad image caused by incidence reports of the disease, according to provincial tourism chief Gina Austria. Typhoid is caused by a water-borne bacteria.

More than 200 resorts are found in Calamba and in the neighboring town of Los Baños, which lies at the foot of a dormant volcano, Mt. Makiling.

Fewer customers

Janet Usi, an officer of Montevista Hotspring Resort and Conference Center in Pansol village, said 60 percent of the resort’s regular customers had not come back since the outbreak was reported in newspapers and television. She described this development as “alarming.”

During previous weekends, the place used to receive more than 400 visitors who enjoy swimming and other activities there. Only 100 to 200 customers have remained loyal, Usi said.

Last week, she said, five groups that had already booked and paid deposits cancelled their reservations.

Alberto M. Cervancia, general manager of the Calamba City Water District (CWD), expressed doubts about findings made by the Department of Health on Monday that said contaminated water from its central distribution system had caused the typhoid outbreak.

In a phone interview, Cervancia said his office did not know how the sampling was made and if the proper procedure was followed. Up to this time, he said, there was no clear-cut evidence yet to prove that the central distribution system was the source.

“The cause of the typhoid outbreak could not be easily ascertained in two weeks’ time and enough time is needed to arrive at conclusive results,” Cervancia said. He requested the DOH to repeat the testing process, but this time, in the presence of CWD specialists.

DOH health certificates

Tourists have nothing to worry about because the hot spring resorts possessed health certificates from the DOH to ensure that their water and swimming facilities are safe, Austria said. Water in Montevista, Usi said, comes from Makiling’s volcanic hot springs underground and undergoes systematic processes of purification. “Our resort waters are definitely safe,” she said.

Usi said 19 workers of the resort also suffered from typhoid and they were residents living around Pansol who might be using the waters coming from the city’s water system.

But Cervancia said the city water system could not be singled out as the culprit because residents had plenty of water sources, such as pumps in homes and underground springs. The water table is just a few feet deep, he pointed out.

He dismissed as nonsense allegations that a decayed human body had been found floating inside the CWD’s huge water tank recently. “If that is true, then, it would be the police who would be investigating us now,” he said.

Chris Sanji, provincial information officer, said tourists should not be discouraged from going to Laguna as the typhoid problem was only confined in Calamba and was about to be contained.