DOT chief: No going back to lockdowns

Ghio Ong - The Philippine Star
DOT chief: No going back to lockdowns
Students of Rafael Palma Elementary School in Manila City wear face masks during their face-to-face classes on May 24,2023.
STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines —  In the face of concerns over rising COVID-19 cases, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco made clear yesterday that there’s no going back to lockdowns.

Despite the tourism industry being battered by the pandemic for over two years, Frasco expressed confidence in its path to full recovery.

“We simply cannot go back to lockdowns, and the President has declared the same,” she reiterated. Instead, Frasco emphasized the need for economic recovery and the restoration of what was lost while harnessing the potential of Philippine tourism.

She said the World Health Organization (WHO)’s earlier declaration of the end of COVID-19 as a global health emergency should alleviate general fears surrounding the pandemic and cited how Filipinos have become more informed in managing their health.

Wearing of masks is now optional, but individuals experiencing symptoms or in crowded areas with potential cases are encouraged to wear masks, she added.

Drawing on her experience as the former mayor of Liloan in Cebu, renowned for its coastal and mountain attractions as well as its rosquillos cookies, the Department of Tourism (DOT) chief had witnessed the impact of lockdowns on tourism during her last term as local chief executive.

The DOT secretary emphasized that the country is moving forward in positioning itself as a tourism powerhouse. Last year, the Philippines witnessed significant growth in tourism performance, with approximately 2.65 million foreign tourists surpassing the target of 1.7 million.

The country also had the potential to earn around P1.4 trillion in visitor receipts, while providing employment to 5.2 million people in tourism establishments.

The DOT anticipates 4.8 million foreign tourist arrivals and the complete recovery of local tourism this year.

The secretary outlined the government’s plan to boost the tourism industry through the National Tourism Development Plan from this year to 2028

The plan involves collaboration with various government agencies to enhance tourism-related infrastructure and services.

One example of this collaboration is the partnership between the DOT and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to improve internet connectivity in 94 tourist spots.

Forty-six of these locations, including Baguio, the Cordilleras, parts of Central Visayas, El Nido in Palawan, Boracay and parts of Mindanao, already have improved connectivity.

The DOT also plans to launch a “tourist life cycle app” that will provide access to DOT-accredited establishments and tour guides through a cellphone application.

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