DOT recommends travel bubbles with source markets

Elijah Felice Rosales (The Philippine Star) - May 4, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A top tourism official is recommending the setting up of travel bubbles with source markets as the safest way to reopen the country’s borders, instead of requiring a vaccine passport for foreign guests which could instead be a disincentive to travel here.

Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said the Department of Tourism (DOT) is coming up with proposals in cooperation with stakeholders on how to reopen the country to foreign tourists without risking the gains made in handling the pandemic.

He said the consensus reached is to set up travel bubbles with source markets, and that requiring a vaccine passport may work against the objective to boost tourism.

“The key objective here is that it’s really all about facilitating travel across borders and removing requirements that are perceived to be unnecessary. Even the WHO (World Health Organization) has said it is not in favor of vaccine passports for a couple of reasons,” Bengzon said in a webinar hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

In April, WHO spokesman Margaret Harris said the international body opposes the plan to make vaccine passports a requirement in entering foreign borders. Harris said it has yet to be proven that immunization prevents the spread of the virus.

Further, Harris said there are political issues that may arise from requiring a vaccine passport to cross borders, including the difficulty faced by developing nations in importing doses.

“In the case of the Philippines, what we want is eventually to develop bubbles involving some of our prime destinations with source markets that are ready to do those combinations,” Bengzon said.

“As far as DOT is concerned, our key objective, in partnership with the different stakeholders, is to make it easier for people to move around,” he said.

Residents from Australia can now head to New Zealand, and vice versa, through a bubble setup arranged by their governments. Upon arrival, passengers are no longer mandated to quarantine for as long as they spend 14 days in either Australia or New Zealand before departure.

At the end of the day, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) will decide on what movement rules will be applied, Bengzon said. However, he hopes the regulations will give tourism stakeholders the opportunity to recover.

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