BI backs DOT bid for Covid-19 passports to revive tourism

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THE Bureau of Immigration is eyeing the use of Covid-19 passports in a bid to lure foreign tourists back into the country.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, in a news statement, expressed belief that once it is introduced, Covid-19 passport will result in speedy immigration processing at the airports, which could spark the revival of the tourism and travel industry.

The BI chief made the statement in support of the initiative of the Department of Tourism (DOT) to create a global Covid-19 passport that would open the door anew for the arrival of more tourists with the shortening of entry procedures.

Morente said current procedures which require  arriving international travelers to be tested at the airport could pose problems to the BI in the near future as the country reopens its borders to more foreigners, especially tourists.

“The anticipated influx of more international travelers could result in longer queues and overcrowding in our immigration counters as all of these passengers should be tested at the airport before they are allowed to enter the country,” Morente explained.

A Covid-19 passport, Morente said, serves as that a traveler has been vaccinated and is free of the virus and the conduct of immigration formalities for arriving passengers would be faster and easier. Congestion at the airports would be also lessened, if not avoided, he added.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat earlier pushed for the use of Covid-19 passport to facilitate international travel with stringent health and safety measures in place as it will assure countries that visiting tourists have been vaccinated and Covid-free.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is also eying the issuance of IATA travel pass, which was described as a global and standardized solution to validate and authenticate country regulations on Covid-19 passenger travel requirements.

The IATA explained that the project aims to create a digital system that will enable passengers to verify that their test or vaccination meets existing Covid-19 travel regulations.

“The importance of this proposed Covid-19 passport cannot be underestimated when our country fully reopens its borders to all international travelers,” Morente said.

Morente added the bureau is anticipating the  influx of foreign travelers in the country once Covid-19 vaccines are already available in the country.

In a related development, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go sought to assure adequate funds are available to bankroll the government’s Covid-19 response, allocating P70 billion under “unprogrammed fund,” even as lawmakers sought to extend the effectivity of Bayanihan 2 and the 2020 budget law.

Moving to guarantee timely availability of crucial Covid response funds, Go prodded President Duterte to certify as urgent the need to pass the twin remedial legislative measures embodied in House Bill 8063 extending the effectivity of the Bayanihan 2 until March 27, 2021, and House Bill 6656 extending availability of the 2020 appropriations until December 31, 2021.

Go reminded, however, that  unused funds from the 2020 national budget law automatically reverts to the National Treasury when the legislation expires on December 31, 2020.

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