MANILA— Passengers at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) still lined up at its antigen testing center Thursday morning amid confusing government guidelines on whether fully-vaccinated travelers are still required to present a negative COVID-19 test result at their destinations.
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19 had earlier said fully-vaccinated individuals may present their vaccination cards in lieu of testing requirements, but the Department of Health (DOH) said the old policy remains as they "iron out operational concerns."
"This means LGU can still require testing as a requirement to entry. Status quo po tayo," the DOH said Wednesday.
A Bicol trip requires a negative COVID-19 test result, while the Batangas provincial government already waived it.
Catanduanes, a small island, has received a number of complaints when they refused to follow IATF's travel protocol. Following this, they are now welcoming fully-vaccinated travelers sans a negative swab test result, as long as they present a vaccination card.
Catanduanes recorded their highest daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
"While we do not fully agree with guidelines... We are tied to the guidelines... We are confused but 'yun nga po we are left with no choice," said Nikko Templonuevo of the Catanduanes Public Information Office.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) said it recognizes the LGUs' concerns on the new policy.
"We ask the help of the LGUS to ensure that only tourists with legitimate vaccination cards and Bureau of Quarantine certifications and legitimate RT-PCR results be allowed to enter the country’s reopened destinations," said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat in a statement.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar directed all regional and provincial police offices to closely coordinate with LGUs to control the entry of travelers amid the uncertain policy.
"Sa gitna ng patuloy na pag-uusap tungkol sa patakaran na ipapatupad sa mga kababayan nating bakunado na, inatasan ko na ang ating mga police commanders na patuloy na ipatupad kung ano ang existing protocols na ipinalabas ng IATF upang maiwasan ang kalituhan sa panig ng ating mga kababayan," said Eleazar.
To be sure, Eleazar advised passengers to first clarify the travel requirements in their destinations to avoid inconvenience.
The national government announced the new policy on interzonal travel of fully vaccinated people on Sunday but several local leaders were quick to raise concerns, saying they were not consulted.