Philippine Red Cross to mount COVID-19 testing centers in Boracay, other tourist spots

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2020 04:56 PM

Two children frolick along the white sand shores of Boracay Island on January 20, 2020 before parts of the Philippines were placed on lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - The Philippine Red Cross on Tuesday said it would put up coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing centers in Boracay and other tourism hubs to "advertise" to tourists that these areas have enough safeguards against the disease.

The PRC will open COVID-19 testing centers in Boracay, Bohol, Palawan and Siargao "to advertise that workers and residents there have been tested and cleared of infection," the organization's chair Sen. Richard Gordon said in a statement.

Boracay resumed tourism operations on June 16, but only for travelers from within Western Visayas.

"We can advertise to the whole world [that] we have tested all the employees here, we have tested everybody here so now you are welcome to come down, and jobs can be generated right away," said Gordon, a former Tourism secretary.

Once recreational flights resume, tourists can proceed to PRC's COVID-19 testing centers as soon as they arrive, Gordon said.

"Pagdating sa airport ite-test agad ang mga incoming travellers at ilalagay sa quarantine para hindi magkakaroon ng pangamba ang mga residente na baka mahawa sila," he said.

(Once tourists arrive, they will have to undergo testing and will be placed on quarantine to ensure that they will not pass the virus to locals.)

"If we are able to do that, we can get our jobs back faster. Bagsak na ang ekonomiya natin, kailangan ma-test natin sila agad para makapagtrabaho na sila ulit," he said.

(Our economy is down and we have to test workers so that they can go back to work.)

The country's tourism industry accounts for 12.7 percent of the Philippines' gross domestic product, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat earlier told senators in a hybrid hearing.

The sector employs about 5.4 million workers, she said.

The global pandemic has forced the Philippines to temporarily stop receiving visitors from certain countries to avoid possible spread of the disease.

Prior to the travel ban, the country generated some P79.9 billion in tourism receipts earlier between January and April 2020, data from the Department of Tourism showed.

The amount is only half of the P150-billion tourism earnings during the same period last year.

The country needs to speed up efforts in reopening the economy so the public won't have to rely too much on the government for cash, Gordon said.

"Without jobs, people will keep getting money from the government. That is the worst thing that we can do to our country and it’s been happening for some time. Now we’re going to get out of it," he said.