COVID-19 tests for local Boracay tourists get DOT subsidy

COVID-19 tests for local Boracay tourists get DOT subsidy
Tourists are seen enjoying under the sun in this undated file photo of the Boracay Island in Aklan
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — The tourism department on Thursday announced that it is partly subsidizing the cost of coronavirus tests to Filipino tourists bound for Boracay, as government looked to revive the sector that suffered as a result of the pandemic. 

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat in a meeting with the Boracay coronavirus task force said the move had come from a partnership with UP's Philippine General Hospital.

The subsidy, she said, will be sourced from the agency's tourism promotion board with the cost at P1,800 per RT-PCR kit.

"We cannot stress fully enough the importance of showing our seriousness in carrying out our protocols and guidelines," Puyat said. "It is our wish to make more affordable RT-PCR tests to encourage more visits."

Other things which the task force agreed include training of personnel from the governments of Aklan and Malay for contact tracing and other coronavirus-related measures, securing at least 1,500 RT-PCR test kits and an eventual transition from rapid antigen test kits for tourists coming from outside the province. 

The world-renowned Boracay Island first opened to local tourists in October, months after being shut like most destination sites as the country entered hard lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus. 

Figures by local officials there just last week showed tourists from Metro Manila accounting for most of the arrivals, or 1,154 out of the 1,611 persons recorded from November 1 to 17. 

Tourists are required to present a negative result from an RT-PCR test 48 to 72 hours prior to travel to the island. 

The reopening, however, has not escaped incidents of individuals breaching protocols against mass gathering. 

Tourism officials have said that they are probing the incident of a video showing a Halloween party where attendees had apparently failed to observe health measures such as wearing masks and physical distancing.

Revenues generated by the sector from inbound tourists alone fell by almost 80% in the last 10 months, or only P81.05 billion in tourism receipts from the P398.3 billion in 2019.  — Christian Deiparine

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