Reopen tourism to boost economy

"The sector was hit hard by the lockdowns."


The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases should concur with Presidential Adviser Joey Concepcion to include the United States, Canada and European countries in the “Green List.”

It means fully-vaccinated travelers from those countries would be exempted from the mandatory facility-based quarantine upon arrival in the country. 

Currently, there are only 49 countries on the Green List -- with zero or minimal number of COVID-19 cases 

The United States, Canada and European countries are on the “Yellow List” or low-risk list.

At the moment, only Romania is in the “Red List” or high-risk list.

Apparently, Concepcion figured out that exempting fully-vaccinated travelers from the US, Canada and European countries from facility-based quarantine would be a big boost to the Philippine tourism industry.

The Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship noted that our ASEAN neighbors, tourism heavyweights Thailand and Singapore, have begun reopening their borders to visitors. 

The tourism sector, one of the country’s vital economic drivers,  was among those hardest-hit by the travel ban and border restrictions throughout the country.  

One year and nine months since the pandemic began, the country’s tourism industry is prepared to reopen for business — gradually, of course, as the situation improves with the rollout of the government vaccination program. 

In fact, the tourism industry heaved a sigh of relief when the IATF dropped altogether the facility-based quarantine requirement for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and who are fully inoculated in the Green countries.

It’s a good thing the IATF honchos finally realized such would allow vacationing OFWs more time with their families instead of isolating at a costly hotel designated as quarantine facilities for five to 10 days, as it was required, before they could join their loved ones. 

But not too many OFWs nor balikbayans come from the Green countries.

I myself believe that doing away with the facility-based requirement for arriving travelers from the US, Canada and Europe will encourage more Filipinos to return home under the balikbayan program.

The US is, of course, home to two million Filipino immigrants for which the Balikbayan Law was enacted in 1989.  

In anticipation of the Christmas season, it would be great if balikbayans from the US, Canada and Europe would be similarly exempted from hotel quarantine as long as they are fully vaccinated. 

Under the balikbayan program, former Filipino citizens who have resided in other countries for over one year may be admitted without visitor visa, along with members of his/her immediate family including his/her spouse and children. 

Balikbayans and their immediate family members may stay in the country for one year.  

According to the IATF guidelines, fully vaccinated travelers from Yellow counties need to undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of a negative RT-PCR test taken on the fifth day.

After this, they shall be required to undergo home quarantine until their 10th day.  

Travelers who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or whose vaccination status cannot be independently verified by the authorities as valid shall undergo a facility-based quarantine until the release of a negative RT-PCR test taken on the seventh day.

After which, they shall be required to undergo home quarantine until their 14th day.

Inbound international travel of all persons, regardless of vaccination status, coming from or who have been to the Red List countries within the last 14 days prior to arrival to the Philippines shall not be allowed.

Only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated repatriation, non-government-initiated repatriation, and bayanihan flights may be allowed entry, subject to testing and quarantine protocols.

Topics: Erwin Tulfo , Inter-Agency Task Force , IATF , tourism , economy , Presidential Adviser Joey Concepcion
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