Department of Tourism (DOT) Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has called on local government units (LGUs) across the country that have opened their tourist destinations to adopt matching travel requirements.
In a statement released Tuesday through the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Puyat said the uniform travel conditions should be “within the existing omnibus interim guidelines”.
She said the strict implementation of LGUs of their respective health and safety protocols is laudable in reopening safe tourist destinations in the country. However, she noted there is a consensus among the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) that there should be matching travel protocols among them.
“We are truly impressed with the efforts of the LGUs for extending a hand to our tourism industry stakeholders in getting back on their feet again, as well as making available safe tourism sites to our fellow Filipinos who long for outdoor activities,” said Puyat in the statement.
She said the task force, in its December 14 meeting, agreed to mandate clinical and exposure assessment for travelers; simplify and condense the pathways into two algorithms — for inbound international travelers and interzonal domestic travelers; provide LGUs a free hand to determine appropriate protocols aligned with the omnibus interim guidelines; and, enjoin implementing agencies to issue necessary supplementary guidelines.
“Given these parameters, and in order to facilitate the ease of travel of our kababayans, we strongly support the proposal for LGUs to adopt a uniform set of guidelines, listing the requirements and step-by-step procedure, for compliance of visitors to tourist destinations,” Puyat added.
She cited the VIS.I.TA digital travel app currently being used by the Ridge-to-Reef travel corridor of Baguio City, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur.
She said this proves effective not only as a contact tracing and visitor capacity control mechanism but also for planning and research purposes.
“We want all destinations to take advantage of this digital system for free, through our attached agency, the Tourism Promotions Board (TBP),” Puyat said.
Puyat said further that standard travel protocols that the LGUs can adopt may include COVID-19 test-before-travel or test-upon-arrival options, the validity of the required COVID-19 test, confirmed hotel reservation with a DOT-accredited accommodation establishment, confirmed round-trip plane tickets, and tour itinerary with a DOT-accredited tour operator.
Some LGUs also demand medical clearances and travel authorities.
“Since tourists would wish to visit several destinations, it is confusing and cumbersome if LGUs have different apps, protocols, and requirements to comply with. Thus, uniformity should make travel plans a lot easier and ultimately, more fun,” Puyat said.
The DOT has deferred to the LGUs’ decision when to reopen their destinations.
“After all, it is the host destination that reaps the benefits of a well-planned, ‘all-systems-go’ restart and vice-versa, the ill consequences of a hastened premature reopening,” Puyat said.