Special to the BusinessMirror
VACCINATED or not, residents of the National Capital Region and four other provinces (NCR-Plus) are still required to take Covid-19 tests before traveling to their holiday destinations.
This was clarified by Tourism Promotions Board Chief Operating Officer Ma. Anthonette Velasco-Allones in a text message to the BusinessMirror: “For now, RT-PCR tests are still required even for the vaccinated, prior to traveling. Even wearing of the mask and face shield are mandatory.”
This follows the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF’s) decision on Monday to allow leisure travel for all ages from NCR-Plus to areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), from June 1-15, 2021. NCR-Plus, which includes Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal, remain under GCQ with heightened restrictions.
“On behalf of the Department of Tourism (DOT), I thank our colleagues in the IATF for this development. Allowing leisure travel for all ages from the ‘NCR-Plus bubble’ to MGCQ areas will surely put local tourism back on track towards recovery,” said Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat in a news statement.
Separately, she clarified to this paper, that the IATF decision “also covers commercial flights, as long as there is test before travel, and they land directly in the tourist spot.”
No flights to Boracay yet
The country’s flag carriers, however, have yet to announce the resumption of their flights to leisure destinations such as Boracay Island (Caticlan). A check with Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Airways, and Air Asia indicated no flight schedules yet to Boracay, the country’s acknowledged crown jewel of Philippine tourism. There are flights though to Tagbilaran (Panglao Island), Siargao, and Puerto Princesa, but mainly for returning residents or essential travelers, but not for leisure travelers.
An industry source shared, “We have been deluged with queries because Secretary Berna announced that domestic leisure between NCR-Plus and MGCQ areas are allowed. But the IATF, or the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board), must issue the corresponding directive.”
Subsidized Covid tests for vacationers resume
Meanwhile, TPB’s Velasco-Allones said domestic leisure travelers can now start applying for subsidized RT-PCR tests at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, and Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC). Travelers still have to send their applications to the TPB, which has funded the subsidized testing program.
“We will just resume the suspended previous/existing MOA (memorandum of agreement) with PCMC, which is valid until June 30 and I’ve asked PCMC for a new MOA starting July 1,” she said. The TPB chief added there are still many available testing slots at the PGH, so no new MOA is needed.
Under the subsidized testing program, domestic leisure travelers will need to pay only P950 to the PGH, or P750 to the PCMC for their RT-PCR tests. TPB is the marketing arm of the DOT.
In its Resolution No. 118A dated May 31, 2021, the IATF also decided that other interzonal travel regulations set by the local government units wherein the leisure destinations are located, or, in the case of Boracay Island, those imposed by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, shall also apply.
“We are looking forward to once again see our tourism destinations welcome tourists from the NCR-Plus area. Of course, this has to be done with utmost precaution. The DOT shall continue to strengthen its coordination with our LGUs to ensure the strict compliance of health and safety protocols,” said Romulo Puyat.
“We continue to count on travelers to comply with minimum health protocols. I know our kababayans have been wanting to go out and enjoy the summertime, but let us practice responsibility to protect ourselves and the communities in your chosen destinations,” she added.