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Friday, April 19, 2024

Chinese envoy meets Aklan local chiefs

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THE Chinese Ambassador to Philippines visited Kalibo and Boracay Island in Aklan over the weekend, in preparation for the reopening of outbound travel by Chinese citizens. Boracay is one of the favorite destinations of Chinese tourists, especially during the Lunar New Year.

Posting on his Facebook page entitled “My first visit to Aklan Province,” Ambassador Huang Xilian said, “There used to be 20+ direct flights from China per week and almost 400,000 tourists yearly to Boracay before the pandemic. China is opening up again for international travel, and anticipates more Chinese outbound tourists later this year.”

He added, “Aklan Province, especially Boracay, is a well-known tourist destination, together with the many other beautiful islands of the Philippines. I hope Aklan in the future would also be a well-known destination for investment and opportunity.”

Scheduled and charter flights between China and the Kalibo International Airport are already being planned for the year. These include Shanghai-based carrier Juneyao Airlines and Philippine Airlines, although the latter said negotiations are still ongoing for charter flights.

Jo Koy gatecrashes Boracay wedding

Also enjoying Boracay last weekend was Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy with his family, which includes his sister Gemma and his son, Joseph Herbert. Posting photos on his Instagram account and on Facebook, Jo Koy (Joseph Glenn Herbert) enjoined his followers to “Visit the Philippines!” after attending an Ati-Atihan festival on the island, and gatecrashing a wedding in a local resort.

The Department of Tourism had long wanted to tap the comedian to promote the Philippines, but was put off by his expensive tag. Filipino-Americans who had been previously contracted to market the Philippines include musician Apl.de.Ap of the Black Eyed Peas, vlogger/comic Mikey Bustos, and celebrity chef Jordan Andino.

Jo Koy was just in Manila last August as part of his world standup tour, Funny is Funny, during which he also promoted his first film, Easter Sunday, which features Filipino families and some of their customs and traditions (See, “Jo Koy ‘shocks’ Mary Grace with shoutout,” in the BusinessMirror, September 2, 2022).

Meanwhile, Ambassador Huang met with Aklan Governor Jose Enrique M. Miraflores and Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista on Saturday, and “discussed future cooperation in tourism and opportunities in agriculture, including the hybrid rice, bamboo industry, fruit plantations, fisheries and education as well as many other areas.” The Chinese ambassador also met with the local Chinese community and young entrepreneurs.

Entry rules for Chinese travelers

During the meeting with local government executives, separate sources said Miraflores assured Huang that Aklan will not impose additional entry requirements specific to Chinese travelers. Under the current national government guidelines, unvaccinated tourists have to submit a negative result from a Covid antigen test taken 24 hours prior to departure from their port of origin. Those who are symptomatic are tested upon arrival in the Philippines and if found positive for Covid, are quarantined in isolation hotels.

On his Facebook page, Miraflores said in Aklanon, “We warmly received and accompanied [the Ambassador and his party] on his ocular visit to the airports and [sea]ports, in preparation for the reopening of flights from China to our province.”  With the ambassador during the courtesy call were Consul General Wang Yue, Consul Hong Jie, Consul Cao KaiWen, and Liaison Officer Peter Tay.

Several tourism stakeholders and lawmakers have called for increased testing protocols for Chinese travelers, or tourists from high-risk countries, where Covid is still widespread. (See, “Nancy, tourism players, DOTr: Tighten border controls for Chinese tourists in PHL,” in the BusinessMirror, December 29, 2022)

Diplomat enjoys sunset cruise

Huang stayed in Boracay for three days and two nights, and made an “ocular inspection” of the island including a visit to Puka Beach. He also went paraw-sailing during which he reportedly enjoyed the famous sunset in Boracay, according to sources.

He likewise expressed surprised over the large number of local tourists on the island, “and wondered if it can still handle the return of Chinese tourists.” A government study in 2018 determined the island can only handle 19,125 tourists daily, at any given time. Even without foreign tourists, the carrying capacity of the island was already breached twice during Holy Week in 2022. There are no government penalties when the carrying capacity is exceeded.

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