MANILA, Philippines, October 15 ------ Despite the downward trend in COVID-19 infections and the easing of some mobility restrictions, foreign tourists are still not allowed to enter the Philippines, Malacañang said yesterday. “We still do not allow the entry of foreign tourists; only long-staying visa holders,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in Filipino during a press briefing.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) recently approved the revised guidelines for passengers from countries, territories or jurisdictions in the “green” list or those classified as low risk. For fully inoculated foreign nationals, a negative RT-PCR test will have to be taken within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin. Upon arrival, there is no need for them to undergo facility-based quarantine but the passenger should self-monitor for any symptoms until the fourteenth day.
Fully vaccinated Filipinos may choose to undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of a negative RT-PCR test taken in the quarantine facility upon arrival. However, they do not need to do this if they have a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin. They should also self-monitor for any COVID-19 symptoms until the 14th day. Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or individuals whose vaccination status cannot be independently verified, and those vaccinated but failed to comply with the test-before-travel requirement have to undergo a facility-based quarantine until the release of a negative RT-PCR test taken on the fifth day.
Foreigners will be required to secure hotel reservations for at least six days. Also, the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated minors traveling with their fully vaccinated parents or guardians have to observe the quarantine protocols that apply to their vaccination status. The parent or guardian should accompany the child in the quarantine facility for the entire duration of the isolation period.
Roque noted that the US is still under the “yellow” list or moderate risk countries. ”Many are asking me about America. America is a yellow country. It is still subject to five days of quarantine,” he told the state-run People’s Television.
Big boost for tourism
The Department of Tourism (DOT) hailed the move to place Metro Manila under a less-stringent Alert Level 3 status starting tomorrow until Oct. 31, saying this is a “big boost” for the tourism industry as the holiday season approaches. In a statement, Tourism Secretary Berna Puyat said expanding the capacity of restaurants and the resumption of staycations is “good” for tourism and would lead to the restoration of jobs lost due to by the pandemic. She added that more businesses—such as dine-in restaurants, venues for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition venues and tourist attractions—would be allowed to reopen under the less-strict alert level and a bigger capacity would be allowed.
Puyat also bared that specialized markets of the DOT, such as staycation hotels, would be allowed to run at 100 percent operational capacity under alert 3. The DOT listed 30 Metro Manila hotels issued with a certificate of authority for staycations. Individuals of all ages would be allowed for staycation. However, those who are yet to be vaccinated are required to present a negative RT-PCR test result. Benito Bengzon, Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) executive director, yesterday welcomed the lifting of restrictions on staycations as he expressed optimism that the relaxed alert level “will result in greater demand among hotel guests and boost the establishments’ revenues in the last quarter of 2021.”
Following the new guidelines, the Department of Transportation seeks to raise further the cap on daily international passenger arrivals in Manila from the current 3,000 to 4,000 later this month, said DOTr transportation security administrator Raul del Rosario. Airlines have previously asked the government to increase or even remove the daily arrival cap on international passengers to allow more Filipinos abroad to come home this holiday season. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier ordered the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to explore the use of various regional airports for arriving international flights to address the need to increase capacity on inbound passengers. Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific has extended until Oct. 31 its free “Test Before Boarding Program” for passengers bound for Hong Kong. The program is part of its multi-layered approach to ensure “everyJuan” will fly safely.
Passengers are advised to directly proceed to the Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory (PADLAB) at the second floor of the NAIA Terminal 3 pre-departure area four hours before the scheduled time of departure. Testing for Hong Kong-bound passengers is open from 1:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. daily.? Antigen Test results will be released within 30 minutes, and only passengers with negative results may proceed to the check-in area. Guests who will be unable to take the Antigen Test or receive a positive test result will not be accepted for check-in.
On the other hand, flag carrier Philippine Airlines is optimistic that more local government units will ease travel restrictions amid the nationwide vaccination drive and the government allowing point to point travel for all ages, provided that senior citizens, pregnant women and persons with identified health risks are fully vaccinated. PAL said the new IATF guidelines allow point-to-point inter-zonal travel, including leisure travel, from the National Capital Region to areas under general community quarantine and/or modified GCQ for individuals below 18 years old, as well as fully vaccinated individuals over 65 years of age, pregnant women, and those with immunodeficiencies, comorbidities or other health risks.
Individuals ages 18 to 65, regardless of vaccination status, continue to be allowed to travel. PAL said domestic destinations which have relaxed travel requirements and provided special considerations for fully vaccinated travelers as of Oct. 13 include Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Catarman, Coron, Culion, Cebu province, Cebu City, Dipolog, Guimaras, Ioilo City, Maguindanao, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, Ozamiz, Puerto Princesa, Pagadian City and Tacloban.