DOT files raps against Boracay tourists with forged COVID test results
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has filed charges against six Manila-based tourists who were nabbed in January for Falsification of Public Documents. Marc Judicpa of the DOT Region VI-Boracay Field and Compliance Monitoring Office (BFCMO) filed the complaint.
Boracay received 11,898 visitors in January 2021 with an average of 300 to 400 tourists a day. The DOT has issued repeated warnings against tourists who falsify their COVID tests to enter Boracay.
The department said it welcomes the DILG directive to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to arrest and prosecute individuals who are forging their RT-PCR tests. The DILG stressed that it is a crime punishable under Republic Act (RA) No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act which provides for penalties of P20,000 but not more than P50,000 or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months, or both fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.
Specifically cited is Section 1-b under the Prohibited Acts of RA 11332 which stipulates that "tampering of records relating to notifiable diseases or health events of public health concern, which includes official medical test results or medical certificates, or such other documents and records issued by public health authorities" is punishable by law.
“We laud the recent parallel actions of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Aklan and Malay local government units (LGUs) to reinforce IATF MEID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) regulations and health and safety protocols for the protection of guests, workers and host communities. We will continue to be vigilant and ensure that these collaborative interventions will deter entry of such delinquent and unwanted visitors. This is how serious the DOT is in the enforcement of existing health and safety rules,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo warned.
The DOT emphasizes the importance of tightening the registration procedure which involves, among others, validation of the submitted COVID test results and hotel bookings.
At present, there are about 10 to 12 validation and monitoring officers per shift on two shifts a day, seven days a week. These officers verify the required documents before a QR code is given. With the growing number of applications and visitors, along with difficulties in reaching the laboratory centers and hotels, the short validity of the test and time given to book the flights, there is high occurrence of issuing provisional QR codes which are validated at ports of entry.
“In anticipation of the further relaxation of regulations governing inter- and intra-regional movements, the LGUs should be prepared to address an increase in the number of applications and visits. Enforcement is key and we must all do our share in keeping Boracay safe,” Puyat added.
According to the department, the DOT Region VI-BFCMO will continue to work closely with the local government units (LGUs) of Aklan and Malay to ensure enforcement of minimum health and safety protocols at DOT-accredited accommodation establishments (AEs) and other tourism enterprises (TEs) on the island.