Eager to reunite with the San Agustin Church in Paoay? Have you done a selfie against the majestic Kapurpurawan rock formation? Well, now you can have your Ilocos empanada and eat it too where they make it best. After almost seven months of community quarantine, Ilocos Norte is opening its doors again beginning Thursday, October 15—but only to tourists from Luzon.
Ilocos Norte is the first province in Region I, alongside Baguio City, to welcome tourists as part of intra-regional collaborative efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Northern Luzon tourism. As a kick-off, the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office will conduct a drive-in concert at Suba, Paoay Sand Dunes, subsequently permitting tourism activities in the province’s national parks, geological monuments, and historic plazas such as the Paoay Lake, Laoag City’s Sand Dunes, and the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, among others.
To further ensure safety of tourists and locals, the provincial government has established a one-stop-shop pasalubong center called the Ilocano Migrants Monument Visitor Center in Laoag City and the Ilocos Norte Triage in the town of Pinili.
“To our kakailian who are concerned about the reopening of our tourism, we at the Provincial Government promised to do everything to place all safeguards possible. We will do it the safest way possible,” promised Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc.
Governor Manotoc has issued, through an Executive Order, guidelines for safely welcoming tourists from other Luzon regions.
Only fifty (50) pre-arranged visitors through the Department of Tourism (DOT)-accredited tour agencies and establishments are allowed to enter the province each day. Persons who are pregnant, with comorbidities, and children with chronic health conditions are not permitted to travel.
Under Executive Order 98-2020, an Order Establishing the Guidelines for the Second Phase of the Reopening of Tourism in Ilocos Norte, visitors are subject to a compulsory COVID-19 test before traveling to the province.
In the identified General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified GCQ (MGCQ) areas with a sharp infection rate, travelers must have RT-PCR test results released within 72 hours prior to arrival. Travelers should also undergo Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) at the provincial borders upon arrival.
Alternatively, travelers from these areas can have RDT issued within 30 hours of arrival and RT-PCR test will follow upon the arrival. While in GCQ and MGCQ areas with a low infection rate, travelers can either have RT-PCR or RDT test and another RDT at the border upon arrival.
Leisure travelers who plan to stay for longer than three (3) days in the province must follow the repeat RDT test on the fourth (4th), ninth (9th), and fourteenth (14th) day of stay.
Registration to SafePass is also necessary for systemized management and contact tracing. The tourist’s information such as confirmed accommodation, travel agent, confirmed itinerary, medical certificate, and negative test results are recorded in every account.
Likewise, the software application will generate a QR code that will serve as the visitor’s Health Declaration ID and Travel Pass Authority at the provincial borders.
Tourists can only proceed with their itinerary with the guidance of their travel agencies only if they have accomplished the following on a designated Visitors Center: negative COVID-19 test results, validated Health Declaration, and signed Affidavit of Understanding.
In cases that a tourist manifests COVID-19 symptoms or strays from the set itinerary and cannot be contacted for two hours, an RT-PCR re-test is required.
With the gradual easing of travel restrictions and enabling tourism to begin again, Governor Manotoc assures that the priority of this initiative will essentially benefit the tourism-dependent families.