The Department of Tourism called all local government units to reopen their tourist destinations, while House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero proposed to open the country to fully vaccinated international tourists coming from low-risk countries.
The Department of Tourism gradually moves to revive the tourism sector. The department urged all local government units across the Philippines to reopen their tourist destinations and assures them that the DOT will assist the LGUs.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a virtual briefing that most LGUs are unease over possible violations of health and safety protocols, especially with a reported surge of Covid-19 cases, hence, they chose not to open their local tourist spots.
"I think the LGUs only find it difficult as to how they would implement minimum health standards and are scared of the surge of the cases, especially with the presence of the new variants [of Covid-19],” she noted.
However, the Tourism Chief assured that the tourism industry will not cause an increase of COVID-19 cases as evidence of numerous tourism destinations that had reopened successfully.
“We understand that it is the decision of the LGUs but many are already crying, especially the surfing community for losing their jobs. We will see how we could help and what are the worries of the LGUs so that we can safely reopen,” Puyat said.
The DOT is helping the LGUs forming recovery plans that could be adopted by other local governments.
Puyat also pointed out that when Manila reopened Intramuros, the LGU implemented tourist registrations to know the number of people who are inside, put up handwashing stations and signages, and deployed monitoring personnel.
“I think we could seek the help of Intramuros administration as to how they have done the reopening with carrying capacity where the number of people is only limited. Intramuros [in Manila] caters to 14,000 people a day. When it reopened amid the pandemic, we allowed only 100 people, then we increased it gradually because we want to prevent mass gatherings,” Puyat said.
Aside from the national government’s official contact-tracing digital application StaySafe.PH, the DOT is also developing a Cisco program to know if one person is wearing a mask or not, she added.
The department has also subsidized the RT-PCR tests in Boracay, Palawan, and Siargao and is slowly increasing the number of tourists to be allowed to stay in tourist destinations as a way of showing that tourism will not cause the spread of coronavirus to the locals.
Last October, the agency provided P10 million to Boracay for the RT-PCR tests of the workers to accept tourists and P7-million worth of contact-tracing application to Baguio to urge authorities there to reopen last September, Puyat said.
She added that the only weapon to fight back from the current crisis is the Covid-19 vaccines. The department is also ensuring that all accommodation establishments pass health and safety guidelines and it stopped setting targets.
“I think the only way to [revive] tourism is when everyone is vaccinated, or at least the majority, so that tourism could restart, and maybe then, we can already talk about targets . . . But what we are always saying, even though you get vaccinated, even though tourism restarts, we should still adhere to the minimum health and safety protocols,” Puyat said.
The LGUs and the locals, according to her, should not worry as the DOT will restart tourism “slowly but surely and [ensure that] everyone’s safe” for the sake of all industry stakeholders.
Meanwhile, House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero proposed to open the country to foreign tourists from low-risk parts of the world who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease.
Romero said in an interview on ANC that the Philippines can accept international tourists coming from low-risk countries and can open up areas outside Metro Manila.
Opening up tourist hotspots such as Cebu, Palawan, Boracay, and Siargao to vaccinated tourists, he proposed, saying the concentration of COVID-19 in these areas is low.
Romero added that international bubbles can be established to accommodate people who have been vaccinated against the disease.
"Outside of Metro Manila there are like Boracay, Cebu, Palawan, [where] the COVID or the concentration of positive [cases] are not that much so why don't we put international bubbles. It's only NCR that's highly concentrated so I guess we could open up any parts of the country," Romero said.
Sources: ManilaTimes, ABS-CBN News