For those who are in need to quench their thirst for travel, the updated Department of Tourism (DOT) website is your friend to let you know where you can go and what requirements are needed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But before packing your bags, know that one of the new realities of travel is that prepping for your trip is not a walk in the park.
The DOT recently welcomed the amended guidelines from the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EIMD) regarding the eased travel movement between general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) areas for tourism revival.
Following the announcement, the DOT provided in its website a list of local destinations that are now accepting visitors, complete with health and safety protocols and tourist requirements.
A list of certified accommodation establishments per region is also on the website. The DOT recommends tourists to stay in DOT-accredited accommodations for the duration of their trip to ensure that proper safety protocols are in place.
“These new policies, approved by the IATF, support the department’s programs aimed at rebuilding the tourism industry to bring back lost jobs and livelihoods and stir local economies,” said Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat. She also noted that the amended guidelines would empower local government units to reopen their respective destinations with minimum health and safety measures in place.
As indicated in the DOT website, most areas in the country are only allowing local residents to visit their tourist spots, including the country’s banner destinations like Siargao, Bohol and Cebu.
Recently approved tourist destinations include Boracay, Baguio and Ilocos Norte with strict protocols and guidelines in place. At present, travel and health protocols and other health measures are in place in other key areas and locations mentioned in the website. Before planning a journey to any of these locations, it is best to check the local tourism advisories to avoid unnecessary hassle.
According to the DOT website, Baguio City is open to local residents and Region 1 tourists (the city will reportedly accept tourists from Luzon in November). The Ridge and Reef Baguio-Region 1 travel corridor guidelines state that only 200 tourists per day are allowed in the city and they are required to undergo Department of Health-approved testing methods and register their trip online via the Visitors Information and Tourist Assistance (VISITA) platform prior to their trip, among other preliminary requirements.
Meanwhile, travelers from Luzon may enjoy Ilocos Norte’s attractions like the Cape Bojeador Light House, Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center, Kapurpuran Rock Formation, Bangui Windmills, Paoay Sand Dunes, Paoay Church and more, as the province has already welcomed tourists for leisure travel. However, travelers are still subject to a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours before entry and pre-registration at ilocosnorte.ph with a valid SafePass QR code.
Other Region 1 destinations like Ilocos Sur, where Vigan City is found; La Union, famous for its Urbiztondo Beach area for surfing; and Pangasinan, where the Hundred Islands National Park is located, only accept residents of their respective provinces, with the exception of Ilocos Sur, which also accepts tourists from Baguio City.
In Central Luzon, the Clark Freeport Zone is open to all tourists but for those who come from GCQ areas, accommodation and tourism-related establishments require health declaration forms.
Subic is open to all coming from MGCQ areas. For those from GCQ areas, Subic only accepts individuals on official business trips. If one will stay for more than 48 hours, a swab test is required upon arrival, including checking in a quarantine facility while waiting for the results. Once cleared, that’s the only time one can be transferred to a leisure hotel.
Most of the Calabarzon area, with the exception of Rizal, is open to locals and non-residents of the respective provinces, also with strict adherence to health and safety protocols by the LGUs.
Recently, dive sites in Anilao, Batangas have been given the go signal to operate, subject to strict protocols and requirements for tourists, which include a negative swab test, proof of reservation, a valid ID and a medical certificate.
In the Mimaropa area, Puerto Galera’s beaches, snorkeling and diving sites are open to residents of the province, foreign tourists, NCR and MGCQ areas residents provided that they will comply with the following: a negative RT-PCR or nasopharyngeal swab result valid for 24 hours upon release prior to travel; book at a DOT-accredited establishment; and register to Puerto Galera Tourist Registration Application available on Google Play Store and iOs.
Majority of Palawan is only open to residents due to an increase in community transmission cases, except for the El Nido Resorts, which is in the travel bubble program that accepts guests from GCQ to MGCQ with strict requirements for travelers.
Western Visayas remains to only be open for locals, except for Boracay in Aklan, which was opened for domestic tourists from GCQ and MGCQ areas last Oct. 1. Tourists are required to present a negative result of their RT-PCR test 48 to 72 hours prior to traveling to the island.
Last week, the DOT started to allow several luxury hotels in Metro Manila to accept guests for staycation. Following this was the IATF lifting the ban on non-essential travel abroad for Filipinos, which takes effect Oct. 21. The Department of Trade and Industry also recently allowed travel agencies, tour operators, reservation service and related activities to operate in GCQ areas at 50-percent capacity and 100-percent capacity in MGCQ areas.
The gradual opening of the tourism industry is part of the government efforts to kick-start the tourism economy, a major driver of the Philippines’ economy that has suffered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic since March.
Though flexible travel movements are slowly starting to take place, Secretary Puyat reminds the public that safety protocols and enhanced hygiene measures in all sectors of the tourism industry will still be enforced.
In one of her earlier official statements, Puyat emphasized, “The concept of responsible traveling should no longer be limited to keeping our destinations and attractions clean and preserved. In the new normal, travelers will have a bigger role to play. The success of health and safety measures will rely also on their cooperation.”