DOT-Bicol plans reopening of tourism sites to ‘outsiders’

AGRI-TOURISM. A boy poses for a shot with Mt. Mayon in the background in an agri-tourism site in Daraga, Albay. Fe Buela, Department of Tourism-Bicol officer-in-charge, on Wednesday (Oct. 21, 2020) said they will soon reopen over a hundred tourism sites to visitors from outside the region. (Photo by Connie Calipay)

LEGAZPI CITY – The opening of over a hundred tourism sites in Bicol to domestic tourists from other regions would depend on the outcome of a tourism stakeholders’ meeting set next week by the local Department of Tourism (DOT) office.

Fe Buela, DOT Bicol, officer-in-charge, said plans are being ironed out in consultation with local government units and industry stakeholders, especially with regard to their respective travel and health protocols in case the different tourism sites are reopened to domestic travelers.

She said in a phone interview on Wednesday that in the initial talks, some LGUs were amenable to reopening their tourism sites to visitors from other regions on conditions that travel and health protocols are strictly enforced. “Camarines Sur has agreed to open their tourism destination,” she added.

Buela said they are working out plans on gradually resuming travel and tour activities on a “pilot” basis in the region.

She said the DOT will also be consulting the Bicol Regional Tourism Council (BRTC) in drawing up tourism events and safety nets to recover the multi-million pesos of revenue losses due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Buela said the opening of the tourism sites would take place soon once the agreement with LGUs and the BRTC is approved.

Last month, 104 sites across the region were opened including beach resorts, island destinations, natural tourism areas (mountain, waterfalls, and river cruising), cultural and historical places, and landmark sites, but only to Bicolanos.

Buela said the tourism sites allowed to operate were directed to strictly enforce the minimum health requirements by the Inter-Agency Task Force including the wearing of face mask, face shield, washing of hands, and physical distancing. (PNA)

PAL hopes non-essential travel boosts passenger demand

MANILA – Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is hopeful that the resumption of non-essential travel beginning Oct. 21 will boost passenger demand, spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said on Monday.

During the Laging Handa public briefing, Villaluna said PAL is currently operating 15 to 20 percent of its normal frequencies. 

“We used to operate 250-280 flights a day (pre-pandemic). Then, it has reached 15 percent of that, and now it’s at 15-20 percent. It (frequencies) is gradually increasing. We are hoping that the percentage would increase. We anticipate passenger demand, (considering the) latest development,” she said.

Those traveling abroad would have to present at the check-in counter roundtrip tickets, travel and health insurance, written declaration acknowledging the risks in traveling, and a negative antigen test.

PAL flies to the United States, Middle East, London, and Asia Pacific.

“There is an ongoing pilot testing of the efficacy of antigen test. If by Oct. 21 there is no announcement (regarding this), we will see if the RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test result can be accepted. We will keep everyone posted,” she added.

Only essential travel is currently allowed.

Meanwhile, Villaluna said PAL hopes that the number of domestic passengers will also increase. 

Travel to Boracay, for instance, has been allowed by the government since Oct. 1.

Villaluna reminded passengers bound for Caticlan they are required to have a negative RT-PCR test 72 hours before the flight, health declaration form, and a confirmed booking in a Department of Tourism-accredited hotel.

PAL is implementing physical distancing inside the aircraft whenever the situation permits, she said. (PNA)

Baguio reopening to spur ‘swift’ PH tourism recovery

THE reopening of Baguio City to travelers from Luzon would spur a “swifter” recovery of the Philippine tourism industry that had been reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic since March, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Saturday.

Baguio is set to start accepting tourists from Luzon, particularly the National Capital Region (NCR) and Regions 2 and 3, starting on October 22 with 200-daily carrying capacity.

New health and safety measures would be finalized anew together with the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Technical Working Group (TWG).

Requirements for tourists, meanwhile, would be relaxed through the Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA), which has received an encouraging number of 2,000 registrations and some 200 travel requests since it officially launched on September 22.

The agency said booking itineraries through a DOT-accredited tour agency is “now optional” but guests are still required to book in an accredited accommodation establishment issued with a Certificate of Authority to Operate.

“Now that we have an actual visitor count, the city has an important reference point and valuable feedback on how to move forward from this initial opening period,” Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

The DOT, through the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), funded the VISITA program to assist Baguio’s initial reopening for the Ridge and Reef travel corridor or La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte (BLUPISIN).

“It was a privilege to be working closely with the local government of Baguio during this process. We witnessed first-hand how they came up with effective policies to find the delicate balance between ensuring public safety and reopening for tourism to bring back jobs and livelihoods lost to the pandemic,” the Tourism chief said.

“The Ridge and Reef Project is one of the pioneering efforts to get our industry back on track, and the whole country is watching closely. Everyone’s determination to get the job done responsibly has been truly inspirational,” she added.

The expansion of the green lane to include nearby towns La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, Tublay or the so-called BLISTT is also being worked on with the respective local government units (LGUs).

“With its vision to promote a green, peaceful, and family-oriented tourist destination, we are counting on the BLISTT Tourism Council to be a strong ally in the DOT’s ongoing thrust for sustainable tourism development. We commit to support its endeavors as we work with local government units in the coordination and preparation of the area’s eventual reopening,” Romulo-Puyat said.

Almost seven months since the first lockdown was imposed in the country, the DOT said Baguio has improved its capacity in terms of critical health care and isolation centers, the addition of newly trained contact tracers to an already efficient team, and the creation of a new triage center for tourists at the CAP Convention Center.

The pilot study for antigen testing is also now in its final stages, which may pave the way for use to screen potential visitors.

“Since this method is cheaper than the RT-PCR, the gold standard for Covid testing, allowing the use of antigen tests, will surely be welcomed by visitors,” Romulo-Puyat said. (PNA

Enchanted Kingdom opens under strict health protocols

ENCHANTED Kingdom, the theme park located in Santa Rosa, Laguna opens today, Oct. 17, under strict health protocols.

According to a news report, the theme park will operate under strict safety and health protocols. Tickets must be purchased online and health declaration forms must be filled out before entering the area.

Aside from checking the temperature and offering alcohol disinfectant to incoming visitors, the park will allow inside only those with temperatures 37.5 degrees Celsius and below.

There will be a holding area outside the park for those with temperatures above 37.5 degrees Celsius should they need to cool down. However, if their temperature stays the same or goes higher, they will not be allowed to enter.

Aside from having “Safety Wizard” patrollers to implement the protocols, numerous markers are also placed inside the park, from the rides to the stores, to enforce physical distancing.

 A cashless policy is also implemented for guests buying food and souvenir items, while performers are required to wear a face shield while staging shows.

Out of the 30 rides at Enchanted Kingdom, only 14 will be operational, including the Flying Fiesta and Space Shuttle. Rides for kids are still closed down.

From a full capacity of 17,000 people each day, only 8,500 visitors will be allowed inside.

According to the theme park’s administration, the rides will be disinfected after each use.

“More on the mental effect of the people kasi nga alam natin lockdown, quarantine. A theme park like EK offers a fresh open air environment which experts say is very safe,” said Cesar Mario Mamon, chairman and president of Enchanted Kingdom.

For other rides such as Agila and Rialto, Mamon said, “kinakabitan pa namin ng medical grade HEPA at ultraviolet filters para ’yung circulating air inside will be safe.”

For now, Enchanted Kingdom’s popular concerts and fireworks are put on hold to avoid gatherings.

Only those aged 21 to 59 will be allowed at EK. The theme park will be open only on weekends from Oct. 17 to Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, from Dec. 14 to Jan. 3, the theme park will be open every day. – (Kaela Malig/RC)

Eased travel movement between GCQ, MGCQ areas welcomed

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Friday welcomed the amended guidelines from the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on the easing of movement of persons traveling between areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

Under IATF Resolution No. 79, “the interzonal movement of non-authorized persons outside residences (non-APOR) between areas placed under GCQ and MGCQ for any purpose shall be permitted subject to the reasonable regulations imposed by the local government unit (LGU) concerned, if any, and which should be submitted to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), or in the case of Boracay Island, subject to those imposed by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF).”

During the 79th meeting of the task force, the body also approved the recommendation to gradually expand the age group allowing individuals from 15-years old to 65-years old to go out of their residence.

“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,” DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a news release.

The amended guidelines will empower local government units to reopen their respective destinations to more areas outside their province or region with the minimum health and safety measures in place, Puyat said.

This will also complement the DOT’s strategy to develop tourism circuits and travel corridors, such as the Ridge and Reef Corridor Plan between Baguio City and the provinces of Region 1, to help revive tourism under the new normal.

On October 15, Ilocos Norte welcomed residents of Luzon for leisure travel. Last October 1, Boracay Island extended its reopening to all local travelers, even those coming from GCQ areas.

Both areas have required a negative RT-PCR test before travel, online registration and health declaration at their respective LGU websites, and issuance of a QR code for contactless transactions and contact tracing purposes, from travelers before entry.

As stated in the amended guidelines, Boracay Island’s regulations will still follow those set by the BIATF.

“The flexible travel movements, however, do not mean that we will be relaxing our health standards. We will continue to work with the LGUs in enforcing safety protocols and enhanced hygiene measures in all sectors of the tourism industry.” Puyat said. (DOT PR)

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