“Are we really easing up?”
With the number of COVID-19 cases drastically reduced and its Omicron variant and sub-variants now being treated as simple cases of the common flu, the Philippines is now slowly removing the remaining obstacles as the country gears up for the full opening to tourism.
Yesterday, the Department of Tourism bared the Philippine government will no longer require a pre-departure COVID-19 test for incoming fully vaccinated passengers as part of its measures to revive the pandemic-hit economy starting May 30, 2022.
This was upon the recommendations of the DOT as a means to further ease the travel requirements and encourage more tourists to visit the country, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved Resolution 168 exempting all fully vaccinated and boostered foreign nationals from the RT-PCR test requirement. Based on the resolution, the visitor must be at least 18 years old and must have received the primary series of Covid-19 vaccines and at least one booster shot.
Also exempted from the pre-departure RT-PCR requirement are foreign nationals aged 12 to 17 who have received their primary Covid-19 vaccine/s; and those aged below 12 and traveling with fully vaccinated or boostered parents or guardians.
The same exemption guidelines apply to Filipinos travelling to the Philippines.
An elated Tourism Secretary, Berna Romulo-Puyat lauded the IATF-EID as she assured everyone that despite the easing of entry requirements, “the public’s health and safety will remain the DOT’s priority.
“The DOT sees this development as a win for the local tourism industry as welcoming more tourists in the country will yield more revenues for our MSMEs and restore more jobs and livelihoods in the sector,” she added.
As entry requirements have been eased, Romulo-Puyat says, travel insurance will no longer be required, although still highly encouraged, for arriving passengers. All types of vaccinations certificates, regardless of country of origin, will also be accepted.
Based on recent data, a total 517,516 foreign tourist arrivals have been recorded in the Philippines from 10 February to 25 May 2022.
A bulk of foreign tourists, totaling to 104,589 came from the United States, followed by South Korea with 28,474, and Canada with 24,337.
Australian nationals, British/English, and Japanese tourists came next on the list with 23,286; 20,846; and 13,373 respectively.
Other foreign visitors in the Philippines during the early months of the year include Vietnamese, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Italians, Irish and French.
Puyat said the Department is looking forward to an uptick in tourist arrivals in the coming weeks following the further easing of entry requirements into the country.
While this may be a welcome development for foreign tourists planning to visit the country, I think the DOT should look into the still-stringent requirements being imposed by some local government units.
A friend who was trying to book a trip to his hometown was asked by the ticketing agency to secure an S-Pass or a Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage Card as a requirement for his trip.
Another friend complained of the requirements being imposed by the Baguio City Government. According to this friend, one cannot enter Baguio without securing a Visita Registration and QTP or QR-coded Tourist Pass, which can be secured by creating an account on visita.baguio.gov.ph where you will be required to submit a valid ID.
In the same website, you will be asked to schedule your trip where you will be asked to provide your accommodation, check out the list of accredited accommodations from visita.baguio.gov.ph/accommodations. Once the accommodation is confirmed your QTP or the QR-coded Tourist Pass will be issued.
These are just some of the requirements being asked from someone who intends to visit Baguio City.
And that is what I cannot understand. You welcome them with open arms as they disembark from their planes entering the country only to trap them with so many other requirements once they start visiting local places. And these requirements also apply to local tourists.
Are we really easing up? I hope the DOT settles these issues with the local government units which still impose these requirements as they themselves admit that tourism is one of the worst hit industries during the pandemic.