DOT: ‘Beach marshalls’ to oversee implementation of COVID-protocols once islands reopen

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
DOT: âBeach marshallsâ to oversee implementation of COVID-protocols once islands reopen
This photo taken on June 17, 2020 shows a general shot of empty famous white beach of Boracay Island in central Philippines, as community quarantine against COVID-19 still continues throughout the country, with foreign tourists still banned on beaches.
AFP / Ernesto Cruz

MANILA, Philippines — Lifeguards will now be accompanied by “beach marshalls” in supervising beach activities once the beaches and resorts reopen for business.

This was indicated in the Memorandum Circular No. 2020-007 or the “Health and Safety Guidelines Governing the Operation of Island and Beach Destinations under the New Normal” signed by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat last Monday.

The DOT, mandated to promulgate rules and regulations governing the operation and activities of all tourism enterprises, under the Republic Act No. 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009, also set pre-entry, guest handling as well as emergency-related policies in the memorandum released to the public on Wednesday.

Rules during beaches, islands visits

Under the “new normal” guidelines, beach marshall are officers tasked to ensure that protocols such as physical distancing are followed in island tourist destinations alongside the lifeguards deployed during prescribed swimming hours.

“The DOT maintains its commitment to safely resume tourism in the Philippines under a ‘New Normal’,” Puyat said.

She reminded the public that mass gatherings and group events, including sports competition, youth camps, and other activities that gather crowds must comply with the health and safety protocols of the national and local governments as she stressed that cooperation is the key to the implementation of these rules.

“In a new normal scenario where no quarantine classification is imposed, swimming, surfing, running, walking, and other forms of outdoor non-contact sports and exercises will be allowed in our island and beach destinations, as long as minimum public health standards are strictly observed,” the tourism chief said.

For the pre-entry to the island or resort, tourists who intend to stay for at least one night must present a confirmed booking at a DOT-accredited establishment since no walk-in guests will be allowed.

Guests must also follow the mandatory screening at the port of entry, which includes body temperature check and completion of health declaration form. They are also enjoined to follow strict physical distancing of at least one meter apart.

Establishments are also mandated to implement “no face mask, no entry” policy and use online mode of payment in booking transactions.

Puyat said restrooms must also meet the requirements and qualifications prescribed under the ASEAN Public Toilet standards.

The guidelines indicated that public restrooms with handwashing and toilet flushing facilities must be operational at all times and must be cleaned and sanitized regularly every after two hours or as whenever necessary.

These should also be supplied with clean water, hand soaps, alcohol, tissue paper, trash bins and other cleaning materials.

Meanwhile, concessions, shops, peddlers, ambulant vendors and food vending will remain strictly prohibited at beaches.

The new normal guidelines for beach and island destinations likewise ban use of chairs, canopies, grills and other ancillary temporary structures.

The DOT said these guidelines should be strictly followed as it prioritizes the safety of tourism stakeholders, workers, guests and the communities in these destinations amid the global health crisis.

“While we await the time when we can visit these destinations, I encourage everyone to educate ourselves with all the protocols. Let us work together in making tourism under a New Normal a safe yet fun experience for all,” Puyat said.

Interzonal movement

Aside from the new memorandum, Puyat also signed Administrative Order (AO) No. 2020-004 titled “Guidelines for Leisure and Tourism Operations of Island and Beach Destinations under a Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ),” which reiterates the DOT’s strict adherence to the existing rules set by the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on interzonal movement, health and safety standards, and leisure and tourism activity in island and beach destinations under the MGCQ classification.

The DOT last week launched the Ridge to Reef Corridor or the travel bubble plan that covers BLUPISIN or the areas between Baguio City and the provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

This came months after the top tourist destination of the country Boracay reopened to Western Visayas tourists in June.

In a televised interview with CNN Philippines last Monday, Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon said the reopening of a tourist destination under the travel bubble plan is determined by the number of cases. Only those with zero to low COVID-19 cases will be allowed to reopen tourism with the approval of the local government unit.

He also said establishments that has secured certificates to operate must only function at 50% capacity as part of the guidelines of the modified general community quarantine. They must also secure certificates of authority to operate before catering to customers.

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