MANILA — The Department of Tourism (DOT) reiterated Tuesday that current restrictions on non-essential travels must be respected amid reports of a posh resort allegedly circumventing rules by offering slots for an "anti-COVID-19 immunity treatment program."
In a statement, the DOT said it has received reports from "concerned citizens" that the exclusive Balesin Island Club in Polillo, Quezon Province was offering a way for guests to travel outside the so-called National Capital Region Plus bubble through the issuance of medical certificates to participate in their program.
In a letter to members, the club said that they were "aware that non-essential travel is not allowed" but that "there is an exception with reference to travel for medical purposes."
But Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the pandemic task force resolution was clear.
"IATF resolution is clear. The exceptions for non-essential travel should not to be used as a means to circumvent the restrictions. There is a reason for the rule and the exceptions as well. The guidelines are clear, when we talk of medical exemptions we are talking about medical emergencies or those cases with urgency. Our health workers just asked for two weeks. Let's respect that," Puyat said.
The National Capital Region and nearby provinces are currently in a "bubble," with movement restricted going in and out of the zone, in a bid to contain COVID-19 cases, which reached record highs over recent days.
In a statement, Balesin confirmed the existence of their "medical program," but did not address accusations they were flouting IATF rules.
"In August last year, when NCR was locked down, Balesin was allowed to reopen for precisely the same medical reason. All Balesin visitors were required to undergo an Immunity Booster Program at Aegle Wellness Center," the resort said.
"Aegle Wellness Center is an extensive medical facility on Balesin, which is staffed by doctors and other medical personnel on a 24/7 basis. Balesin is COVID-free and pure sea air environment is surely safer than anywhere in Metro Manila," it said.