PH mulls accepting foreign tourists from areas with low coronavirus spread: official

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2020 04:49 PM

A worker disenfects chairs at the airport in Manila on Aug. 4, 2020. Ted Aljibe, AFP/File 

MANILA - The inter-agency task force leading the country's pandemic response is studying allowing inbound tourists from countries with "low to medium" coronavirus transmission, an official said Wednesday, as authorities sought to boost the pandemic-hit economy. 

The Philippines should determine whether or not its healthcare capacity can accept travelers from abroad, said IATF co-chairperson Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles. 

Authorities are also considering "reciprocity" for territories that have opened its doors to Filipino travelers, he said.

"Ito po ay pinag-aaralan pa po kasi gaya ng sinabi ko, step-by-step process ito, kailangan mai-prepare po natin ang ground," he said in an interview with government network PTV-4. "Tinitingnan din po natin ang low-medium transmission countries." 

(This is being studied because as I said, this is a step-by-step process. We need to prepare stakeholders in the ground. We are also looking at low-medium transmission countries.) 

"May mga ibang bansa na tumatanggap ng mga mula sa Pilipinas so tinitignan din natin yung option ng reciprocity. Kung sila ay tumatanggap ng mga Pinoy at Pinay, baka kung low transmission din naman po sila, baka tayo rin po ay papayag na tumanggap muli ng mula rin sa bansa nila as reciprocity. 

(There are other countries accepting travelers from the Philippines so we are looking at the option of reciprocity. If they are accepting Filipinos and perhaps have a low transmission rate, we might accept travelers from these countries as reciprocity.) 

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Current restrictions only allows the entry of returning residents, migrant workers, the foreign spouses and children of Filipinos, diplomats, and foreigners with essential work and technical expertise, he said. 
 
The health department on Tuesday recorded 1,640 new coronavirus infections, the lowest daily increase in infections in 4 weeks, and 17 additional deaths. In a bulletin, the agency said total confirmed cases had increased to 360,775, while deaths had reached 6,690, the second highest tallies in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia. 

The Philippine economy was one of Asia's fastest-growing prior to the pandemic that resulted in recession and left millions of Filipinos jobless. The World Bank forecasts the Philippine economy to contract by 6.9 percent this year, the biggest decline since the 1980s and worse than the government's projected 5.5 percent fall.

It has been gradually reopening the economy to allow more businesses to resume operations and more people to go back to work, but partial restrictions in and around the capital Manila remain to keep the virus spread in check. 

The IATF has allowed Filipino tourists to go abroad starting Oct. 21, , potentially increasing customers for Philippine carriers that have suffered amid the pandemic. - With report from Reuters

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