Philippines eyes completion of guidelines for tourism reopening


Posted at Nov 22 2021 01:55 PM

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Government on Monday said it eyed completing this week the guidelines for the entry of foreign tourists vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The coronavirus task force last week "approved in principle the entry of fully vaccinated tourists" from "Green List" countries with low COVID-19 cases, the tourism department said, adding that guidelines must be finalized.

"Nagsimula na silang mag-usap tungkol dito sa mga detalye last Friday. Hopefully by this week, ma-approve na pati ‘yong mga kondisyon and we can implement, para naman ‘pag Pasko ‘di ba, masaya na," Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said. 

(They started talking about the details last Friday. Hopefully by this week, the conditions will be approved and we can implement, so that our Christmas would be merry.)

The Philippines, known for its diving destinations and thousands of tropical islands, saw an 83 percent drop in foreign arrivals last year, receiving nearly 1.4 million visitors, compared to nearly 8.2 million in 2019. Japan, South Korea and China are its biggest tourism markets.

It imposed some of Asia's tightest entry requirements during the pandemic and has been one of the region's worst hit countries in terms of cases, deaths and economic losses. Just over a quarter of its population has been vaccinated.

The COVID-19 crisis displaced around 1.1 million of 5.7 million pre-pandemic tourism workers, said Puyat. 

"We’re hoping na hindi lang ‘yong domestic tourists, but unti-unti tayong magpasok ng mga turista sa ibang bansa ay magkakatrabaho na ‘yong mga nawalan ng trabaho," she said in a televised public briefing. 

(We hope that with the gradual entry of tourists from other countries, not just domestic tourists, those who lost their jobs can work again.)

Neighbors Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have also announced various degrees of reopening in recent weeks, after progress in vaccinating their local populations.

Citing the experience of other countries, Puyat said, "Napansin namin as long as sundan ‘yong minimum health and safety protocol, at least bakunado ‘yong mga tao, safe ito talaga sa pagbukas." 

(We noticed that as long as the minimum health and safety protocol is followed, and people are vaccinated, opening up is safe.)

She noted many local destinations no longer require RT-PCR coronavirus tests for fully vaccinated tourists. 

Around 75 percent of tourism workers have been vaccinated, added the official. 

The Philippines includes on its "green list" of approved countries Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and India, among others. 

— With a report from Reuters