MANILA - Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Sunday that her agency is eyeing a further reduction in the cost of the COVID-19 RT-PCR test for domestic tourists.
"We're working on kung puwede pa namin mababaan (if we can still further reduce the fee)... Siyempre (Of course), we want travel to be affordable to everybody," Puyat told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
The government lifted last Friday its age restriction policy, particularly for those coming from Metro Manila, for travel to tourist destinations under modified general community quarantine and GCQ.
"Ang good news is pinayagan na ng IATF ang No Age restriction papunta sa ating tourist destinations na MGCQ, GCQ or at least bukas ang LGU (local government unit)," she said.
(The good news is the IATF has allowed No Age restriction when traveling to tourist destinations under MGCQ, GCQ, or was opened by the LGU.)
"Ongoing na ito, nagsimula na siya last Friday. Last Friday, pumayag na No Age restriction... kasi 'di ba, ang pamilyang Pilipino, we travel as a family. Ang hirap magbakasyon ng isang pamilya kung iiwanan mo naman ang below 18."
(It's ongoing, it began last Friday. It was allowed last Friday...because Filipinos travel as a family. It's hard to go on vacation and leave those aged below 18.)
Travelers aged 65 and above must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, she said.
In welcoming the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Department of Tourism reminded tourists from Metro Manila that they can avail of a P750- or 50 percent discount in their RT-PCR. test at the Philippine Children's Medical Center (PCMC).
Puyat said she feels that the discounted P750 fee at PCMC is still expensive, and will be felt heavily by large families who are traveling.
Asked on the impact to PCMC of the eased travel policy, she said the agency is already looking at establishing "satellite offices" for similar testing activities for tourists.
It is up to LGUs whether to require confirmatory swab tests or vaccination cards, she said.
The DOT was also subsidizing the price of RT-PCR tests for tourists at the Philippine General Hospital, making it more affordable at P950.
The subsidy resumed in June, after it was suspended in late March when leisure travel was banned in parts of the country due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The agency has vaccinated tourism workers in popular destinations such as Baguio and Boracay, according to the DOT chief. The two areas have 100 percent and 80 percent inoculation rate of tourism workers, respectively, she said.
Staycation, meantime, will be allowed when an area goes down to Alert Level 3, she added.
Metro Manila is testing until Oct. 15 a new alert level system paired with granular lockdowns, which government hopes will better curb COVID-19 clusters and spur business activity.
Among the hardest hit by the pandemic in Asia, the Philippines has confirmed more than 2.6 million coronavirus infections, including 39,505 deaths.