MANILA - The Philippines will gradually reopen its tourism as it continues to look for cheaper and faster coronavirus tests, an official said Sunday.
Summer capital Baguio City on Saturday announced it would open its doors to all residents of Luzon, including those from general community areas like virus epicenter Metro Manila.
Only 200 guests with a QR code and negative coronavirus test will be allowed to enter daily, said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
Ilocos Norte also opened to all residents of Luzon on Oct. 15, she added.
More and more tourists are also visiting island paradise Boracay but some travelers are having problems with getting tested before traveling, Puyat said. The central Philippine tourist destination opened to all Filipinos on Oct. 1.
"Naghahanap kami talaga ng mas affordable at mas mabilis, kasi ang antigen, you get it in 15 minutes, yung results. Kailangan tayong mag-ingat pa rin because we still have COVID," she told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(We are looking for more affordable and faster coronavirus tests, because you get the result of the antigen test in 15 minutes. We need to remain careful because we still have COVID in the country.)
"Maraming may gusto na walang test at all. Di naman pwede yun. Sa ibang bansa, ginawa nila yun, nagka-outbreak sila. Kailangan tayo mag-ingat. Slowly restart tourism, slow but sure."
(Many want there to have no tests at all. But we can't allow that. Other countries did that and it resulted in outbreaks. So we need to be careful. Slowly restart tourism. Slow but sure.)
Puyat reminded tourists to still observe minimum health protocols during their travel.
"Sabi nga nila, kahit may vaccine na, ganun pa rin ang new normal. We can restart tourism pero may (but with) minimum health and safety protocols. It’s become a habit and that’s the reason why cases are going down because Filipinos are compliant," she said.
(They say even though there's a vaccine already, the new normal will remain.)
"Always wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands."
The tourism department, meantime, will provide P6 billion worth of aid under Bayanihan 2 to small and medium tourism enterprises affected by the pandemic. But it is awaiting funds from the budget department, Puyat said.
Another P3 billion was allotted for cash-for-work programs, but the agency is awaiting funds from the labor department, Puyat added.
The Philippines hosted 8.26 million foreign tourists in 2019, exceeding its 8.2 million target and 15.2 percent higher from the previous year, according to the the Department of Tourism.
South Korea was the top market for tourists, accounting for 1.98 million of the total and growing by 22.5 percent. China was second with 1.74 million, followed by the US with 1.06 million.
Last year's international visitors contributed $9.31 billion or P482.15 billion in visitor receipts, 20.81 percent higher than the $7.71 billion in 2018, the DOT said.
Meanwhile, a partial report on the 2019 regional distribution of overnight travelers in accommodation establishments in the country tallied 46.3 million domestic travelers.