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DOT wants ‘Green Lane’ for fully vaccinated foreign visitors to reopen economy

By Tanya Lara Published May 21, 2021 2:14 pm Updated May 21, 2021 2:21 pm

The Philippines wants to be part of the global tourism reopening as countries are ramping up their vaccination programs.

The 27-country European Union is set to accept non-EU tourists provided they have been fully inoculated with vaccines authorized by the European Union and the US; Hong Kong and Singapore are set to start a travel bubble; Israel will allow a limited number of vaccinated foreign travelers starting May 23; and other countries like Indonesia are targetting to reopen by July.

All this to help revive air travel and tourism, the hardest-hit sectors with billions of dollars in losses around the world.

Before the pandemic, global tourism contributed $8.9 trillion to the world’s GDP. The losses due to the pandemic have reached nearly a trillion dollars at $935 billion.

In the Philippines alone, tourism losses amounted to P401 billion or $8.3 billion in 2020.

Now, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has proposed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) setting up a Green Lane that will facilitate the entry of foreign visitors who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of the national government’s effort to reopen the economy.

The department did not specify if it will require tourists to be inoculated with only certain vaccines to get into the Green Lane.

According to the DOT, this will make it easier for fully vaccinated travelers to visit the country for leisure as quarantine rules are being relaxed with the progress of the vaccination worldwide.

El Nido, Palawan is in many foreign travelers’ bucket list.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said that she is optimistic about the prospect. “The Green Lane will pave the way for the reopening of our tourist destinations to leisure travelers who are now fully vaccinated. It will give the jobs back to many of our tourism workers and gradually revive the tourism industry under safe conditions.”

The IATF-EID has tasked the DOT and several other agencies of the government to explore protocols for inbound international travel for fully vaccinated individuals.

Headed by the DOT and the Department of Foreign Affairs, a Small Working Group (SWG) has been formed to evaluate the possibility of implementing Green Lanes and formulate protocols therefor.

Waterfalls around the Philippines are a big attraction to tourists.

The group also includes the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) under the Department of Health (DOH), the Bureau of Immigration (BI) under the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“We must keep pace with our neighbors and the rest of the world in slowly reopening our tourist destinations. We must be ready for the visitors when the whole world is ready to safely travel again,” Puyat said.