DOT seeks IATF to allow foreign nationals to enter PH

DOT seeks IATF to allow foreign nationals to enter PH

The Department of Tourism (DOT) pins its hopes on convincing the policymakers to finally allow foreign nationals to enter the Philippines, as the travel sector had zero outbreaks since.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the sector has yet to have an outbreak after reopening tourism businesses to domestic tourists this year. A proof that tourism enterprises complied and followed all the health and safety protocols the government sets.

Puyat urges the policymakers at the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to take into account the tourism's reputation in how they had managed the risks after assessing proposals in reopening the Philippine borders to foreign tourists.

"I am confident that our colleagues at the IATF would look at the fact that there was no outbreak due to tourism. When they do, I hope they finally allow foreign tourists to enter our country,"  Secretary Romulo-Puyat said in a radio interview.

The tourism sector is struggling to keep the ship afloat, especially after the major lockdown of Metro Manila. Moreover, any indication from the government's plan to finally reopen its borders to foreign visitors is yet to be known.

The number of visitor arrivals this first two months of 2021, went down to almost 99 percent with a total number of only 17,422.

The plummet was connected to the decision of the IATF to close the gateways and restrict the entry of foreign visitors, a way for the government to contain the staggering number of COVID-19 cases just recently in Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces.

The DOT depended on domestic travelers to help and revive the sector and the economy, but lockdowns impeded tons of locals' plans for traveling, especially during this summer season.

Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon said many tourism stakeholders are preparing various travel activities that would be profitable on this new normal. Such as activities related to open-air recreation to mitigate the risks of spreading the virus.

Furthermore, Bengzon said the DOT is currently assessing possible options on getting vaccinated foreign nationals into the country, but any proposal is yet to be approved by the IATF discussions.

Visitors dropped to 82 percent on the previous year with only 1.48 million arrivals compared to the 8.26 million in 2019. In addition, visitor spending fell to about 83 percent or P82.24 billion, which mostly affected micro, small and medium enterprises that rely heavily on tourism.

Source: PhilStar

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