TOURISTS from Metro Manila who are planning to go to Cebu City, Mandaue City, or Lapu-Lapu City in Mactan, still need to take RT-PCR tests before arrival.
Gov. Gwen Garcia earlier announced that tourists only need to present a medical certificate 72 hours prior to arrival, pre-booked hotel or resort, and pass symptoms checking at the point of departure or arrival in Cebu province. Said requirements are contained in Garcia’s Executive Order No. 12 dated February 22.
Hotel Resort & Restaurants Association of Cebu president Alfred M. Reyes told the BusinessMirror that Garcia’s announcement “is good marketing for the province.” He clarified though that the EO only applies to province, but not to the three charter cities — Cebu City, Mandaue City, or Lapu-Lapu City.
“First thing the airline will ask you, where are you going? Then they will look for your RT-PCR [test result], especially if you are traveling to the tri-cities [Cebu City, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu], they will really ask it from you. If your destination is going to the province, that is a different story. [But] these cities require negative RT-PCR tests [from tourists],” he explained.
The National Capital Region is still under general community quarantine (GCQ).
Streamline travel requirements
This developed as the Department of Tourism (DOT) expressed support for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)’s ongoing streamlining of travel procedures and requirements imposed by local government units (LGUs).
“The DOT has long been advocating for the simplification of travel requirements as this is critical in making domestic tourism work,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat in a news statement.
In a separate interview, she expressed exasperation at the different requirements of the various LGUs. Of her recent travels around the country, she said, “There are LGUs which not only require negative RT-PCR test results, but also want guests to take an antigen test upon arrival. In other cases, aside from the RT-PCR test results, they want guests to present a medical certificate. But isn’t the RT-PCR test result already a medical certificate that proves I don’t have Covid?”
She also cited a few LGUs, which require not only a negative RT-PCR, but also want the guest to quarantine. “It’s really inconvenient for tourists,” she stressed.
A recent survey presented by the DOT, Asian Institute of Management, and Guide to the Philippines, showed 81 percent of respondents who had traveled, consider the different LGU requirements as the factor that makes travel most inconvenient.
“I agree with the DILG that if tests need to be required prior to entry to a tourism destination, for instance, it should be decided whether it will be RT-PCR, antigen, or saliva PCR. But it has to be standard across all LGUs,” said Romulo Puyat. Other rules that need to be standardized are age restrictions, rooming or capacity limits, among others.
Meanwhile, a hotelier who requested anonymity, said Gov. Garcia’s announcement “is good publicity, but might not totally help. I still believe people in general still don’t feel safe to go out too much.”
Another hotel executive said, “Actually I am torn [by Garcia’s decision]. I know our economy needs to be driven but it may be at the detriment of health. But when do we start?” Medical experts have already recommended to the Department of Health that the province be placed under enhanced community quarantine due to the rising Covid cases, and the recording of new variants.
Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella said in a press conference on Tuesday that under Inter-Agency Task Force guidelines, persons traveling from modified GCQ areas don’t need to present negative RT-PCR test results.
Philippine Airlines showed updated travel guidelines for Cebu province and the three charter cities, i.e., those traveling from MGCQ areas do not need to present negative RT-PCR tests. But for those traveling to Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City for “tourism/non-essential travel” from GCQ areas, the passenger must present a negative RT-PCR test “taken three days before travel, travel itinerary for the duration of the stay, Joint Task Force Travel Authority, confirmed hotel booking, round-trip ticket, and authority to enter” the city. For Mandaue, tourists from GCQ areas only need to present a confirmed booking with a DOT-accredited hotel or resort.
In 2019, Cebu City welcomed 2.86 million foreign tourists, followed by Lapu-Lapu City (1.83 million); Mandaue (856,82); Santa Fe in Bantayan Island (168,519); and Cordova (165,291). No data for domestic tourists were made available by the Department of Tourism-Region 7.