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Philippines ready for int’l travel since 2020 — DOT chief

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Philippines ready for intâl travel since 2020 â DOT chief
This undated file photo shows immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The STAR / Rudy Santos, File

MANILA, Philippines — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the country is ready to welcome vaccinated tourists from visa-free countries, adding that the Philippines has been ready since 2020.

During the Kapihan Sa Manila Bay virtual forum on Wednesday, Puyat expressed excitement over the reopening of international travel saying February 10 could mark the beginning of the “next chapter" in the tourism travel sector’s road to recovery.

Before the pandemic, the country recorded 8.26 million tourist arrivals in 2019. The number of visitors declined to 1.48 million in 2020.

“These are exciting times for Philippine tourism. We have been ready since 2020; with the significant dwindling of new COVID cases, the Department of Tourism (DOT) can now push forward with our plans and programs for the full recovery of the Philippine tourism industry,” Puyat said.

Late last month, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the DOT’s proposal to allow the entry of fully vaccinated tourists coming from the 157 countries that have visa-free arrangements with the Philippines.

The task force also dropped the color-coded classification system of countries based on their COVID-19 status.

The tourism chief said the opening of the borders to eligible foreign visitors could help the millions of Filipinos working in tourism-related establishments and businesses get back on their feet.

“Allowing the entry of these international travelers is a welcome development that will lead to growth in the travel and tourism sector, the restoration of lost jobs, the generation of much needed revenue for tourism-related enterprises, tourism communities and the government, plus many other benefits that will be felt by the entire tourism value chain,” Puyat said.

Health and safety protocols in place

She said that the DOT has implemented health and safety protocols for arriving travelers.

“I am excited about the prospects of a healthy rebound in tourism for a good number of reasons: the high vaccination rate among our tourism workers, the public health safeguards and guidelines that have been put in place and the number of new tourism circuits that have been developed,” Puyat said.

According to DOT, 92.51% or 317,892 of 349,534 tourism workers already received their COVID-19 shots as of February 4.

Puyat also said a number of tourism destinations have 100% vaccination rate among its workers. These are Baguio City; Aurora; Palawan towns Coron, El Nido and San Vicente ; Puerto Princesa City, and Camiguin island.

“The DOT offices are also facilitating the roll-out of booster shots for eligible tourism workers,” Puyat said. 

Meanwhile, Puyat stressed that fully vaccinated Filipino nationals and foreign tourists are exempt from the 5,000-passenger arrivals cap set by the Department of Transportation and its One-Stop-Shop. 

Based on the IATF-EID Resolution 160-B, unvaccinated foreign children below 12 who are traveling with their Filipino parent/s, will be allowed entry and must follow the entry, testing and quarantine protocols that apply to their parent/s.

On the other hand, minors aged 12 to 17 are required to follow the protocols based on their vacation status. They must also be accompanied by their parents during their facility-based-quarantine.

An individual is considered fully vaccinated if he or she received the second dose of COVID-19 jab or a single dose vaccine more than 14 days before the date and time of the departure from the country of origin, according to IATF-EID’s resolution.

Last week, Puyat reminded tourists that while the international visitors are not required to undergo facility-based quarantine, they must still continue self-monitoring and report to the local government unit of their destination should they exhibit any symptoms of the virus.

BERNADETTE ROMULO-PUYAT

DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM

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