The heads of the tourism and trade industry departments are eyeing to propose an increased operational capacity of restaurants if Metro Manila’s general community quarantine (GCQ) status quo remains beyond July 15.
This was according to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez during Wednesday’s interview with the media.
Lopez joined tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, as well as local chief executives Vico Sotto and Menchie Abalos, in inspecting selected hotels and dine-in restaurants in the cities of Pasig and Mandaluyong on Wednesday afternoon.
They inspected Marco Polo Hotel and Go Hotels in Ortigas, and several restaurants in SM Megamall to check their compliance with the quarantine guidelines.
He said in a way, it was also done to prepare the establishments when the whole of metropolis finally transitions to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), where there is more relaxed movement of businesses.
“Kapag MGCQ, they could escalate to 50% operating capacity. [But] of course, meron kaming mga agenda ni Sec. Berna na kapag tumagal pa ang GCQ, pwede naman nating hopefully mapaakyat pa rin ang operating capacity kahit GCQ (If MGCQ, they could escalate to 50 percent operating capacity. [But] of course, Sec. Berna and I have an agenda that if this GCQ will take long, we can hopefully increase the operating capacity even if it’s GCQ),” the DTI chief said.
But he stressed that this would also depend on the establishments’ compliance checks, as well as the rate of COVID-19 cases in the country. As of yesterday (July 1) the Philippines’ coronavirus cases have already ballooned to more than 38,000, with around 1,200 deaths.
“That’s why i-coconsider natin yung (we are considering the higher operating capacity para naman mabalanse din natin yung (for us to balance) the need for them to be sustainable and to have more workers. Kapag mas maraming workers (if there are more workers) maraming income (there is more income) and it raises yung (the) consumer confidence,” he added.
Like Lopez, Puyat also expressed the same enthusiasm, who commended the compliance of the said establishments, especially now that the DOT is pushing for a more contactless transaction and experience.
“All of us underwent the standard protocols prescribed in the guidelines, like the filling out of health declaration forms and the temperature checks before entering the establishments. I commend the collective efforts of our stakeholders to abide by the prescribed health and safety guidelines. It is important for us to sustain these efforts as they will influence how we rebuild consumer trust and regain tourist confidence in the Philippines,” she said.
Prior to the inspection, the DOT had already issued “new normal” health and safety guidelines for hotels in accordance with the minimum public health standards set by the Department of Health (DOH). These standards cover the kitchens, food and beverage service, sanitation and disinfection, guest handling, reception and concierge, rooms, housekeeping, public areas and transportation.
It also issued separate guidelines for dine-in operations of accredited restaurants following the adoption of the joint recommendation of the DOT and DTI by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
According to DOT-National Capital Region (NCR), the tourism department had already inspected 243 hotels and restaurants in Metro Manila as of June 25.
At present, there are now 336 DOT-accredited hotels in the NCR, or a 90% percent increase from the 177 that was recorded last year. Although restaurants are not mandated by law to be accredited by the DOT, a 70% increase in accreditation has been recorded with a total of 133 restaurants accredited so far this year compared with 78 in 2019. An additional 55 restaurants also applied for accreditation this year, according to DOT.
Puyat said the spike in restaurant accreditation was also driven by the “new normal” setup, where customers are now taking into consideration their own safety even when dining-in.
With this, she hoped that through the DOT’s continued cooperation with government agencies like DTI and private stakeholders, the post-audit mechanism for tourism establishments can be continuously improved.