PH prepares to welcome fully vaccinated foreign travelers
MANILA, Philippines — Foreign travelers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon be allowed entry into the Philippines.
A small working group with the heads of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as chair and vice chair, respectively, has been organized by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to study the matter and formulate protocols, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced on Friday.
The members of the small working group consist of representatives of the Departments of Health, Justice, Information and Communications Technology, Transportation, Labor and Employment, and Trade and Industry; the Bureaus of Quarantine and Immigration; the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration; and the vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said she had requested the IATF to consider establishing a “green lane” that would expedite the entry of foreigners fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Setting up such a special lane for fully inoculated foreign travelers may just do the trick for the Philippines’ pandemic-hit tourism industry, Puyat said in a statement issued on Friday.
“The green lane will pave the way for the reopening of our tourist destinations to leisure travelers who are now fully vaccinated,” Puyat said, adding:
“It will give the jobs back to many of our tourism workers and gradually revive the tourism industry under safe conditions.”
The Philippines currently bars foreign tourists, and only a limited number of foreigners are permitted in.
Those allowed entry are diplomats, members of international organizations, foreigners involved in medical repatriation, foreign seafarers under the “green lanes” program, foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens traveling with them, and emergency humanitarian cases approved by the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
But domestic tourism is still allowed, although on a limited scale.
In the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus, which is under general community quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions, staycations in hotels are now allowed, according to Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr.
NCR Plus, which consists of Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, recently experienced a surge in COVID-19 infections. But the infection rate, as well as congestion in many hospitals, has somewhat eased.
Bengzon said 13 hotels in Metro Manila had been allowed to accept leisure travelers and host staycations.
But they can only accept guests age 18 to 65 years old, who must present papers showing negative antigen test results, he pointed out.
Bengzon also said point-to-point leisure air travel for residents of NCR Plus is now allowed.
This means they can fly to hotels or resorts that have been given authority to operate for point-to-point travel, he said.
Under DOT Administrative Order No. 2021-003, point-to-point air travel is allowed from NCR Plus to a resort in an area under GCQ or modified general community quarantine.
Travelers must take chartered flights.
Keeping pace with neighbors
Puyat said the IATF had directed the DOT and other government agencies to come up with new protocols for foreign visitors now protected against COVID-19.
She observed that travel and tourism restrictions in other countries had been eased with the success of their respective vaccination programs.
“We must keep pace with our neighbors and the rest of the world in slowly reopening our tourist destinations. We must be ready for the visitors when the whole world is ready to safely travel again,” she said.
Puyat also said almost P17 million in financial assistance would be distributed to a total of 3,390 former employees of various tourism establishments in Marinduque province.
She said the tourism workers, who lost their jobs because of the pandemic, would each be given P5,000.
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