Boracay, Bohol may open first to tourists – DOT sec

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat  

Boracay and Bohol islands are expected to be the first to open among tourist destinations in the country.

New Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat (CZAR DANCEL / MANILA BULLETIN) Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat

Speaking at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Boracay remains COVID-free while Bohol has recorded only one case.

Romulo-Puyat raised the possibility of opening the two-island destinations early to tourists.

“What is important is the RTPCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) lab, so we can test all the incoming tourists to ensure safety,” she added.

Starting June 1, Malay, Aklan Mayor Frolibar Bautista allowed residents to swim in the pristine waters of Boracay when the world-class vacation resort shifted to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), two months after the lockdown only at eight specific swimming areas from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. both at the front beach and the secluded Puka Beach.

Each of the 200-meter swimming area can only have a maximum of 100 swimmers. Red flags have also been installed in non-swimming areas.

With 7,641 islands, Romulo-Puyat said the country will have to look at travel bubbles or travel corridors. These are islands that are zero COVID, or practically very minimal COVID cases.

Romulo-Puyat said Boracay has remained COVID-free and they are going to the island province today (June 11) to check on the safety and health protocols of the accommodation establishments and the local government’s preparedness to accept tourists.

“Bohol is another candidate since it only has one COVID-19 case so very minimal. So, we have two possible tourist havens that may open up,” she said.

What is important, she stressed is that the health and safety protocols are in place in tourist destination areas. She cited the private sector Makati Medical Foundation for helping equipped Bulanog Hospital in Boracay. The secretary also expressed gratitude to Filinvest City Foundation for donating RT-PCR machine to the COVID laboratory.

Bohol Governor Arthur Yap said they are building a COVID laboratory in the island and that Aboitiz Foundation has donated an RT-PCR machine.

While it is just mostly domestic tourism that will kick-start tourism in the country once the quarantine is over, Romulo-Puyat said international tourists will follow.

“And eventually, we can open it to foreign tourists, because you can match it with another ASEAN country, and we can market it let's say Boracay because tourists can go to a safe place. Health protocols must be in place, and we will not open it until these are present,” she added.

DOT certificate required

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) said a DOT certificate of authority is required for accommodation establishments (AEs) going back to business during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) periods.

A provision of IATF’s Resolution No. 43, Series of 2020 of the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine states that “Accommodation Establishments (AEs) may operate only upon the issuance of a Certificate of Authority to operate by the DOT.”

“This is a welcome development for us to ensure that the safety and health of visitors will be given utmost priority and will not be compromised,” Romulo-Puyat said.

The tourism chief said erring AEs will be subjected to relevant penalties under applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

The application for the DOT certification is free of charge. DOT–accredited hotels and other AEs need only to submit to the DOT Regional Office with jurisdiction over their area the Letter of Intent to Operate, while NonDOT-accredited hotels and AEs will need to apply for accreditation to ensure compliance of basic requirements.

Under the same resolution, AEs refer to establishments operating primarily for accommodation purposes including, but not limited to, hotels, resorts, apartment hotels, tourist inns, motels, pension houses, private homes used for homestay, ecolodges, serviced apartments, condotels, and bed and breakfast facilities.

“With this ‘No DOT Certification, No Operation policy’, we shall further implement the DOT Health and Safety Guidelines for Accommodation Establishments Under the New Normal based on protocols issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) for the safety of our guests and tourists in the resumption of tourism activities,” Romulo-Puyat said.