Aerial drone shot of Puerto Princesa City. (Photo by Geoffrey Delahaye)

Puerto Princesa City has relaxed public health protocols and travel restrictions effective March 1 to 15, following its downgrade to an Alert Level 1 status as announced by the national Inter-Agency Task Force.

The City Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and the Incident Management Team (IMT) announced that there will be no more need for the S-PASS system for inbound travelers, vaccinated or not. Vaccinated passengers are also no longer required to undergo antigen testing. Only unvaccinated travelers coming from areas with Alert Level 2 or higher need to secure a negative antigen test a day prior to arrival.

“Yong S-PASS na dati nating ni-re-require ay suspended or hindi na po required habang tayo ay nasa Alert Level 1. Passengers may now board their planes without needing to comply with S-PASS registration or application while we are [under] Alert Level 1,” City IATF spokesperson Norman Yap said in a live update Tuesday via the City Information Office (CIO).

City IATF Resolution No. 76 approved on March 1, 2022.

“Yong test before travel requirement ay lifted, kung halimbawa galing kayo ng Metro Manila, na sa ngayon ay Alert Level 1, kagaya natin na Alert Level 1, wala na pong test before travel na requirement. You can board your plane, and then when you arrive here may symptoms screening na lang,” he added.

Private establishments can now operate at 100 percent capacity, as long as they follow certain conditions, such as having safety officers, contingency plans in case of COVID infections in the workplace, routine safety assessments, proper ventilation, and maintaining a smoke-free environment. Face masks must also be worn at all times in public spaces.

All establishments are also no longer required to hold temperature checks, foot baths, Safety Seal certifications, plastic barriers, health forms, and use of the system, and have isolation areas in the workplace under Alert Level 1.

“Pagdating sa mga private establishments, allowed na po silang mag-operate at full 100% of operating capacity.” Kaya lang merong mga iilang establishment na nire-require na ang lahat ng staff nila ay kailangan 100% fully vaccinated, “Yap said.

“Yan yong mga dine-in restaurants, mga fitness studio, personal care establishments kagaya ng barber shop, cosmetic salon, venues ng mga social events, mga establishments sa loob ng hotel kung may restaurant, yong mga food establishments. Kasama na dyan yong mga videoke at karaoke bars,” he added.

Public transportation vehicles are also no longer to use plastic barriers and may operate at full seating capacity.

Curfew hours will still be from 12 midnight to 5 AM.

The tourism bubble is now also removed, which means that tourists no longer need to present itineraries, book with an accredited travel agency, secure their own transportation, or only visit certain destinations.

The IMT will also no longer require close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases to undergo quarantine if they are already vaccinated. Instead, their symptoms will be monitored by IMT staff. If a vaccinated patient tests positive, they will only undergo quarantine for seven days if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated COVID-positive patients, on the other hand, need to undergo quarantine for 10 days if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

City IMT chief Dr. Dean Palanca said that they are still expecting COVID-19 cases to decrease in the coming days. He added that this will further help local businesses recover after two years in lockdown, Puerto Princesa still has a high infection rate, and that several variants of concern were still detected in the city from samples sent to Philippine Genome Center.

“’Yong ating risk of infection nasa high pa rin, kaya mag-iingat pa rin tayo. Pero, we are expecting na after one week ay bababa sa medium ang ating risk of infection. Yong two-week growth rate is nasa negative 50 per cent na, so maganda na ‘yon. Ang ating growth rate status nasa Low, at ang ating risk status ay nasa Moderate,” he said.

“Maraming taong matutulungan dito, maraming negosyo ang mabibigyan ng buhay. Pero kahit na ganoon, mag-iingat pa rin tayo kasi ang COVID nandiyan pa rin, meron pa tayong isang daang kaso ng COVID ngayon na nagpapagaling,” he added.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.