Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez favors the easing of travel restrictions specially for foreign tourists coming to select Palawan destinations such as San Vicente, El Nido, and Coron, by doing away with RT-PCR tests.
Gov. Alvarez told reporters recently that expensive RT-PCR even for vaccinated individuals discourages tourists from coming to the province that has adopted the “tourism bubble” practice
“Sa province bukas na [tayo]. Sa El Nido, punta ka ng San Vicente, tuloy-tuloy ka na lang. Kung bakunado ka, [may] RT PCR ka, o kung gusto mo wala kang RT PCR, [basta] bakunado ka, antigen ka lang ng konti… hindi naman matagal, labinlimang minuto [lang],” he said.
He said the idea is to allow vaccinated foreign travelers to come to visit Palawan without encumbering them with the need for a negative RT PCR result since they will already be quarantined for several days in Manila.
Scrapping the RT PCR requirement, he said, is a way for foreign visitors to come back gradually.
“Ay talagang mahal ‘yon. Hindi ‘yon karaniwan na requirement, at saka napakamahal, kung yon ang paigtingin natin ay maawa naman kayo doon sa walang wala.,” Alvarez added. “Wala na ang RT-PCR. Basta bakunado ka, at tsaka kung wala kang sintomas, magpa-swab ka lang, magpa-antigen, ay ok na yon”.
He said it will take some time before travelers can flow normally which is why for towns with destinations, like San Vicente, announcements regarding the return of the travel bubble will have to be worked out with the airlines and other establishments catering to their needs.
On a scale of 1-10, Palawan is only in number 2 this year as only local tourists are traveling within the province. Currently, only the municipality of El Nido is fully-booked.
Alvarez added that if Palawan follows the strategy being undertaken by Manila, where almost 80% of the population are already vaccinated, COVID-19 cases will go down and the tourism sector will have a good chance.
He said that they are expecting more tourists to come in by next year considering the increasing number of vaccinated travelers, but travel requirements have to be eased.
“Scale of 1-10 ay nasa 2 lang kami ngayon. Local tourists mostly, ang El Nido ngayon puno,” he said.
“If we can replicate that all over the country, everything will turn back to normal,” he added.
Alvarez said the province is required a 9,500 per day vaccination rate, but the highest they have accomplished is 13,500 due to the number of vaccines and people in the municipalities receiving their jabs.
If all goes well, and herd immunity is achieved in each town, then the province’s economy that is mainly dependent on tourism can bounce back. (with reports from Celeste Anna Formoso)