By Mario Casayuran
Senator Maria Lourdes “Nancy” S. Binay on Saturday objected to the plan of the Department of Tourism (DOT) to allow the entry of tourists from countries without a record of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection or with a very low infection rate.
Binay, chairwoman of the Senate tourism committee, based her objection on reports that some countries are experiencing a second wave of viral infection.
She also cited the country’s poor performance in contact tracing and testing that are needed to contain the spread of COVID-19. She noted that the ideal rate of testing 30,000 persons a day in the country has yet to be attained.
The lady lawmaker also took note of emerging “hot spots” (COVID infection) in Cebu, which has a very high infection rate, and Southern Leyte.
Because of the infection rate, President Duterte dispatched Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to Cebu City to oversee response efforts there.
Interviewed by DWIZ radio on Saturday, Binay expressed dismay at the rising rate of viral infections in the country despite months of lockdowns.
She also cited her colleagues who all have decided not to go abroad because of fears that they might be infected.
To help the government recover from huge losses in the tourism industry, Binay strongly suggested that domestic tourism should take up the slack from the weakened international tourist arrival rate.
The DOT had earlier announced the soft opening of select beaches to domestic tourists such as Boracay.
Asked when the battered tourism industry could recover, Binay said: “Matagalan” (It will take time).
Binay, likewise, said she is mystified by the reporting and definition by the Department of Health (DOH) of “fresh” and “late” infection cases.
There should be real-time issuance of test results, she added.
Binay also supported moves to temporarily suspend the return of citizens to their provinces through the “Balik Probinsya” program because the travellers could be carriers of COVID-19.