Philippines

DOT to keep ‘close watch’ as PH opens to int’l tourists

By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz 

Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (File photo)

MANILA – An official of the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Monday said the government would ensure that tourists and tourism establishments adhere to minimum public health standards as the country opens to fully vaccinated international tourists beginning February 10.

During a press briefing in Malacañang, DOT Secretary Bernadette Puyat said the DOT, other concerned national agencies, local government units (LGU), and other tourism stakeholders will work together to avoid the possibility of another surge in cases brought by an influx of foreign tourists.

“We will be closely monitoring developments in the sector and keeping a close watch on tourism establishments, ‘yun kasi ‘yong mandate namin (because that’s our mandate) to ensure their full compliance with health and safety protocols,” Puyat said.

These foreign travelers, she said, will be required to be fully vaccinated, have negative RT-PCR tests 48 hours before their departure, and will no longer be required to undergo quarantine.

“The reopening of our borders to international travelers in just a few days would be the strongest sign yet that the county’s tourism industry is on its way to a full recovery,” Puyat said.

On the other hand, she said efforts to vaccinate local tourism workers began as early as July 2021 while the administration of booster shots began this month.

She noted that all workers and residents in Boracay Island, a popular tourist spot, have been vaccinated to ensure their safety against Covid-19.

“Halos lahat doon sa Boracay ay binakunahan na and right now nasa booster na sila. And in fact, pati ‘yung mga ages 12 to 17 binakunahan na rin (Almost everyone in Boracay has been vaccinated and right now they’re getting boosters. And in fact, those aged 12 to 17 are also vaccinated),” Puyat said.

As required by law and ordered by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) since the beginning of the pandemic, she said the DOT has been ensuring the compliance of tourism establishments with minimum health standards against Covid-19 through its DOT accreditation.

“Noong 2020 pa lang, mayroon tayong mga minimum health and safety protocols sa lahat ng mga hotels, resort, accommodation establishment—kasama dito ‘yung DOH—‘yun talaga ay ini-implement natin (Since 2020 we’ve had minimum health and safety protocols in all hotels, resorts, and accommodation establishments—in cooperation with the DOH—It’s something that we’re strictly implementing),” Puyat said.

Earlier, the IATF announced that leisure travelers from visa-free countries will be allowed to enter the country beginning February 10, a move seen to revive the tourism industry.

These tourists must also have a passport valid for at least six months and an outbound ticket to leave for their country of origin or their next destination country.

Beginning February 1, the National Capital Region, Batanes, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal in Luzon; Biliran and Southern Leyte in the Visayas; and Basilan in Mindanao will be placed under the less stringent Alert Level 2 as the DOH and other health experts see a decline in Covid-19 cases. (PNA)

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