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Biz Memos

Go Negosyo, PAL seek to pilot-test North America for no-quarantine plan

The Philippine Star
Go Negosyo, PAL seek to pilot-test North America for no-quarantine plan
In a meeting organized by Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, several solutions were put forward to address the difficulty faced by arriving international passengers, specifically those coming from North America.
The STAR, KJ Rosales, File

(As released) Returning Filipinos and visitors from North America may have reason to hope for an easier time traveling to the Philippines. In a meeting organized by Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, several solutions were put forward to address the difficulty faced by arriving international passengers, specifically those coming from North America.
 
Among these solutions are the frontloading of the testing process before passengers arrive in the country and expanding international gateways to ease the load off the NAIA terminals.
 
The meeting included Department of Transportation Secretary Art Tugade, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, experts Prof. Ranjit Rye and Fr. Nick Austriaco from OCTA Research, and representatives and officials from local airlines, including the country’s flag carrier Philippine Airlines.
 
“I think it is important that we try to bring our Balikbayans home because many are desperate to see their families. They want to be reunited with their parents. NCR’s vaccination rate is almost 80% and in terms of reciprocity, the US has been very welcoming to the Philippines, allowing only a negative RT PCR test and proof of vaccination status as travel requirements. We need to extend the same privilege to America,” Concepcion mentioned.
 
In a presentation by OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nic Austriaco, data show that new infections in the Philippines cannot be attributed to international arrivals. According to Fr. Austriaco, homegrown transmissions account for almost all of the new COVID-19 cases in the country today, with arriving international passengers accounting for only 1.8 cases of the average 6,000 new cases at this time.
 
This coincides with data by Philippine Airlines, which has been tracking positivity rates among its inbound international passengers. PAL’s tracking observed that positivity rates among inbound passengers from North America have been relatively low, and that 90 percent of their North America passengers are vaccinated.
 
Fr. Austriaco also shared that a pre-publication paper still awaiting peer review found that the risk of transmitting the virus is lower among vaccinated persons. He also thinks that the fact that there have been no variants of concern since Delta can also be a factor in assessing the risk involved in receiving travelers from North America.
 
“We are also receiving inquiries from a lot of Filipinos, Filipino-Americans, and even American businessmen on when they will be allowed into the country with less restrictions. The embassy and all of its consulates are willing to support the documentation and authentication of vaccination records for arriving passengers,” Ambassador Romualdez shared. He also noted that 90 percent of US-based Filipinos have been vaccinated.
 
Ambassador Romualdez revealed that a Boston-based company has offered to pilot-test a PCR testing technology which can pool testing among passengers and have their results available upon their arrival in the Philippines. This can greatly ease the waiting time of arriving passengers at the NAIA, many of whom have already spent hours on the plane and must contend with spending even more time lining up for testing at the airport.
 
Sec. Locsin agreed that frontloading the testing process can help in easing the long lines now being experienced by arriving passengers. He added that actions of the government have always been based on science and the welfare of Filipinos affected in this pandemic.
 
“Sometimes we don’t necessarily need to move forward but we need to take a sidestep instead. We can consider the compelling reason mentioned which is “reciprocity”.  We would also like to get support from the business community in the efforts.  We need them to recover,” Sec Locsin said.
 
Sec. Tugade, meanwhile, said that finding a solution becomes more important considering that there will be additional passenger arrivals expected. He added that he is open to adding more gateways for international passengers, such as Clark, Cebu, Laoag, Bicol and Zamboanga, to address the bottlenecks now being experienced at the NAIA terminals.
 
“I have been going around the terminals and airports to personally ensure that passengers will have a comfortable experience when they arrive. We don’t want our passengers to experience any inconvenience as much as possible,” Secretary Tugade stressed in Filipino.
 
OCTA Research, which recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Go Negosyo, has offered to assess the effectiveness of the initiatives to help refine the process as it is implemented.
 
Concepcion said that easing the process for returning Filipinos would redound to benefits down the line for many MSMEs, majority of whom are counting on the downstream income that would be generated by increased inbound international traffic. “We have held their hand during the pandemic and now we must try and help them enter 2022 with hope,” he said. — As released

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