The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday tourists must present a negative COVID-19 test result when traveling to the other provinces because local government unit leaders needed to finalize a new policy, which would allow fully-vaccinated individuals to travel without the swab tests.
The national government earlier said it was no longer required for tourists who received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines to present negative COVID-19 tests in provincial borders.
However, several local government leaders raised concerns that it would be difficult for them to validate vaccination cards.
“Before that, our previous resolution was that we had testing ... For now, we will go back there until we get it right, after meeting, if necessary, amend this Resolution Number 124-B),” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.
The leaders of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and the League of Provinces of the Philippines would be invited to a meeting today to discuss the issue, said Duque.
“There’s a problem because in the implementation, there are operational challenges or difficulties. So, we need to iron this out,” he said.
Local government leaders will have to sit down to discuss how they plan to verify the authenticity of vaccination cards that need to be presented at borders in lieu of a negative COVID-19 test, he said.
“Our system today is like ‘in good faith’ at the moment, to recognize the vaccination card...If you make a fake card, this is a public document... you can be charged,” he said.
The Department of Science and Technology is also working on the country’s “vaccine management information system” that would integrate data on vaccinated individuals in the Philippines, Duque said.
“We need to develop the system first...We are first preparing this for an alignment if there will be an international certification process. Including those coming from abroad, there will be sharing of databases,” he said.
Red Cross warning
The Philippine Red Cross has warned against easing protocols for fully-vaccinated individuals, as they pushed for testing requirements to ensure prevention of COVID-19 transmission.
“We need to continue testing to separate healthy individuals from COVID-19-infected persons,” PRC chairman Richard Gordon said in a statement.
“To beat this virus, we need to test regularly, isolate, and treat the affected individuals, and vaccinate, so that people can safely return to work, can now go back to school, and the faster we can open our economy,” Gordon added.
Gordon gave his reaction to the recent Inter-Agency Task Force resolution, allowing interzonal travelers, who completed vaccination, to present legitimate vaccination cards instead of COVID-19 test results.
To date, PRC has conducted 3,382,981 tests to detect SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19.
The League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) earlier said testing requirements must not be removed because vaccination did not guarantee that a person was 100 percent protected from the virus.
Baguio City is the only local government unit so far that allows travelers to present genuine vaccination cards as an alternative to negative swab test results.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat, however, pointed out that it was still up to local government units if they would decide to impose national government’s resolution on scrapping testing in travel requirements.
Meanwhile, the Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) lauded Wednesday the decision of local government officials in various provinces to no longer require RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test from a fully-vaccinated person and accept vaccination card as a travel requirement.
Passengers are considered fully-vaccinated at least 14 days after receiving the second dose in a two-dose series, or at least 14 days after having received a single-dose vaccine.
To date, seven destinations in CEB’s network are accepting vaccination card as travel requirement and these are Negros Occidental province (except Bacolod City), Cauayan City of Isabela province, Cotabato, Siargao, Surigao, Tacloban, and Virac.
The Virac local government requires fully-vaccinated individuals to upload their COVID-19 Vaccination Card on their S-PASS account three days before their scheduled trip to secure Approved Travel Coordination Permit. The approved permit and vaccination card will be presented upon check in.
The CEB management said it would comply with health protocols set by the government, including RT-PCR test results, should it be required by the local government of our destination.
“We are in full support of these guidelines. Right now, we are waiting for local government units that will issue their respective Executive Orders adopting the IATF Resolution 124-B and look forward to welcoming more passengers on board,” said CEB chief strategy officer Alex Reyes.