THE Department of Tourism (DOT) will be launching an investigation into Balesin Island Club for offering a medical treatment plan that would allow its members to continue on their planned holidays despite the two-week lockdown in National Capital Region and four provinces.
A flagship project of Roberto V. Ongpin’s Alphaland Corp., the private membership club is offering an “Anti-Covid Immunity Treatment Program” for members and its guests “for which all intending visitors to Balesin, whether members or guests, can legitimately sign up.”
Ongpin, in his email to members on March 22, 2021, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, said: “We are aware that non-essential travel is not allowed. However, there is an exception with reference to travel for ‘medical purposes.’” The treatment will “address the problem of how one gets from Metro Manila to Clark,” where Balesin has a hangar and Clark, and fly members and guests to what was formerly known as Polillo Island, in Quezon.
Medical emergencies only
On Balesin’s plan, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said: “The exceptions for non-essential travel should not be used as a means to circumvent the restrictions. There is a reason for the rule and the exceptions as well.”
She added, “The guidelines are clear; when we talk of medical exemptions, we are talking about medical emergencies or those cases with urgency. Our health workers just asked for a two-week respite. Let’s respect that.”
Asked whether the DOT would pursue an investigation into Balesin, Romulo Puyat said, “Yes.” Balesin is a DOT-accredited primary tourism enterprise.
In his email to members, Ongpin said, “We are encouraged to offer this program, after consultation with responsible government officials. They have indicated to us that it is not government’s intention to shut down legitimate Covid-free operations.”
Industry sources said a number of Cabinet members and other government officials, along with their families, have been vacationing in Balesin since leisure tourism was allowed from general community quarantine (GCQ) areas.
The club’s statement
In a news statement, Balesin management said, “In August last year, when NCR was locked down, Balesin was allowed to reopen for precisely the same medical reason. All Balesin visitors were required to undergo an Immunity Booster Program at Aegle Wellness Center. Aegle Wellness Center is an extensive medical facility on Balesin, which is staffed by doctors and other medical personnel on a 24/7 basis.”
It added, “Balesin is Covid-free and pure sea air environment is surely safer than anywhere in Metro Manila.”
Meanwhile, Onpin further disclosed the company will request that the anti-Covid immunity treatment program “also be accepted for travel between Naia and Balesin; meanwhile, we will have to fly from Clark.”
The program includes an antigen swab test with certification and a “personalized medical certificate of endorsement for the treatment.” It also includes an immune booster pack, thalassotherapy, IV immune drip, and an optional hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) for P12,000 or P16,000 (with the HBOT) for adults, while the same for children costs P5,000 (without HBOT).
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued Resolution No. 104 on March 20, which put Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under general community quarantine, and along with the NCR, non-essential travel is prohibited in and out of these areas from March 22 to April 4.