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Boracay biz group eyes island-wide measures to protect locals, tourists

A BUSINESS group on Boracay Island has called on government authorities to vaccinate its 40,000-population as a step towards to ensure the protection of tourists and locals from Covid-19.

In a letter to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, Aklan Gov. Florencio T. Miraflores and Malay Mayor Frolibar S. Bautista dated May 5, 2021, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay President Wesley van der Voort said, “With a population of roughly 40,000, we should aim to vaccinate the rest of the population so that eventually, the entire island community (100 percent) would be vaccinated, to ensure a safe future, especially since we all interact with tourists in one way or the other on the island; and the Department of Tourism can promote the ‘Crown Jewel of Philippine Tourism’ as #VaccinatedBoracay confidently, loud and proud.”

The group also urged the establishment of a “much-needed Covid-19 testing facility in Caticlan, for all locals, and land traveling tourists,” so they can be tested before entering the island. “The ‘No test, no entry’ policy must be strictly enforced, making it mandatory for all workers, all residents, and all land travelers, with no exceptions (not even government officials)…”

The group also suggested establishments adopt “a rotation of work schedule shifting of workers every 15-days (due to the 14-day incubation period) for workers who have to go to the mainland with a mandatory rapid antigen swab test before entry to the island.”

PCCI also urged that domestic and international tourists from “safe” bubbles “as long as they are tested with RT-PCR test (nasal swab or saliva) and with negative results.” They emphasized that even vaccinated tourists should be tested before arriving on the island, “as they could still be a carrier.”

The group underscored that it was crucial for test results to be “verified first before any issuance of QR Codes and travel passes, to safeguard against counterfeit test results, as has happened in the past.”

With the test-before-travel policy still in place, PCCI asked that airlines resume regular flights “regardless of quarantine status or point of origin and destination.”

The group said, with all these safeguards already in place, government authorities can then allow all water sports, open air activities such as dining and entertainment, and other Boracay attractions, so these can be fully enjoyed again by tourists and locals alike. The group underscored, “The island has more open air than enclosed indoor establishments. The predominantly outdoor tropical lifestyle has kept Covid-19 cases low during the entire year of 2020, until only very recently, and presumably due to contact in a closed environment.”

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recently eased travel restrictions in the National Capital Region, along with Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna (NCR-plus), as they put the area under general community quarantine (GCQ) “with heightened restrictions,” from May 15 to May 30.

Following this, point-to-point air travel via chartered flights from NCR-plus  to a resort in an area under GCQ or Modified GCQ are now allowed.  Also allowed are “staycation” for individuals 18 to 65 years old in hotels/resorts in NCR-plus that have been granted a CAO for Staycation.

Outdoor tourist attractions may now operate at 30-percent capacity, while indoor dining in restaurants is permitted at 20 percent of seating capacity, and outdoor dining at 50 percent of seating capacity. Intramuros will be opening Fort Santiago and Baluarte de San Diego to the public on May 17.

“We are taking every little opening possible under the current quarantine condition. Every step, big or small, will support our tourism workforce and sustain our industry,” said Romulo Puyat.

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