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Businessmen back uniform travel rules

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
Businessmen back uniform travel rules
This undated image shows travelers walking in an airport.
Pixabay / Skitterphoto

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s largest business organization, which supports the government’s move to have uniform travel rules and regulations, is pushing for investments in the health care system in tourist spots to promote the growth of domestic tourism and help revive the economy.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said it is supporting the recent approval by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) of uniform travel protocols by no longer requiring COVID-19 tests unless specified by the local government unit of destination prior to travel.

The group said the harmonized travel protocols would facilitate flow of goods and services, as well as boost local tourism.

“PCCI believes that domestic tourism could serve as catalyst for restarting not only Philippine tourism, but also the economy as a whole,” the group said.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that tourism accounted for an average of 7.4 percent of the economy from 2000 to 2018.

In 2018 and 2019, tourism’s contribution grew to 12.7 percent and the sector employed 5.71 million Filipinos.

To help promote the growth of the tourism industry, the PCCI sees the need for greater investment in the country’s health care systems in tourist destinations.

“Investing in health care systems in the country’s tourist spots must be central to tourism planning now that COVID-19 is driving tourists to think about their health and safety first,“ PCCI president Benedicto Yujuico said.

Yujuico said LGUs should go beyond what is being required by the guidelines of the national government agencies.

“Investing in infection control facilities such as widespread availability of disinfectants, improvement of ventilation and re-designing of spaces to allow greater social distancing are significant to reinvigorate the industry and it will benefit the constituents as well,” he added.

PCCI tourism committee chair Samie Lim said public-private partnership would also be important in restarting the tourism industry.

“If the public and private sector work as one, we can find the solution of bringing people from their homes to COVID-free bubble destinations through a secured travel system for a safe vacation. Safe travel routes will allow us to go on vacation again,” he said.

As online meetings have become common in the pandemic, PCCI tourism co-chair Jose Mari del Rosario said hotels and resorts are offering new rates to encourage travelers to stay for longer periods while being able to work.

LGUs can impose tests

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) clarified that LGUs are still allowed to impose mandatory COVID tests for travelers, even as the standardized travel protocols omitted this requirement in a bid to spur domestic tourism.

DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said LGUs could still impose their own executive orders that would require travelers to present a negative swab test to gain entry to their jurisdictions.

However, as a general rule nationwide, swab testing would no longer be required for domestic travel.

Some LGUs are still requiring swab tests, including Aklan for entry to Boracay.

He defended the protocol, saying that swab test – although no longer mandatory – had scientific basis and was consulted with the Department of Health.

He clarified the swab test requirement following public inquiry on standard travel protocol.

The protocol streamlined documentary requirement for domestic travel to dispense with the police travel authority and medical certificate from point of origin.

Densing said travelers should inquire with LGU of their destination to ensure a smoother trip.

He said that even with the more lenient travel protocols, health protocols such as wearing of masks and physical distancing should be followed.

The DILG is expected to issue a memorandum that will echo the IATF’s resolution on the new travel protocols for faster dissemination in LGUs.

Some P2 trillion was lost in 2020 due to domestic travel restrictions amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has been cited for supporting government’s tourism efforts as the country continues to deal with effects of the pandemic.

In a letter, the Department of Tourism (DOT) thanked the PCG for providing a safe, swift and comfortable transport on the BRP Malabrigo despite the rough sea condition on Feb. 18.

The DOT thanked PCG spokesman Armand Balilo and several officials in the PCG-National Capital Region for their help. – Romina Cabrera, Robertzon Ramirez

COVID-19 IATF TRAVEL
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