LGUs have final say on opening tourist sites -- DOT

Despite the transition of several areas to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), an official of the Department of Tourism (DOT) clarified that local governments units (LGUs) with jurisdiction over tourism areas in the country have the final say on the resumption of domestic tourism activities. 


This was according to Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. who said that the relaxation of community quarantine measures does not guarantee an immediate restart of tourism.

“Sometimes, there are areas that have already been placed under modified general community quarantine but the LGUs still refuse to reopen for tourism. But if the local chief executive agrees for the reopening, we still have operational capacity computations,” Bengzon said in Filipino in an interview aired over CNN Philippines. 

Bengzon also stressed that operational capacities of tourism-related establishments such as hotels, restaurants, accommodation establishments, and tourist transport will be reduced to 50 percent capacity to avoid close contact and prevent the spread of the virus even with the tourism reopening at the height of the ongoing global health crisis. 

The DOT is ramping up its efforts to restart the country's domestic economy by opening selected Philippine tourism sites where there is low risk or zero coronavirus cases recorded. 

This week, Tagaytay City LGU was the latest to announce the reopening of its tourism. They will now start taking in guests for its restaurants and hotel and resort establishments. This, following the transition of Cavite province to MGCQ. 

Though the DOT has no regulating powers to control the inflow of tourists, Bengzon said they are rather encouraging tourism establishments, primarily Airbnbs in Tagaytay, to apply for accreditation and the secure a certificate of authority to operate to protect its guests and employees.

Meanwhile, the LGUs of Baguio City and Ilocos Region signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last week to start the dry run of the travel corridor plan in Baguio, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte set this Sept. 21. 

But Bengzon clarified that only residents from these areas will have the liberty to visit the tourism sites in the five provinces. 

This means that those coming from Metro Manila and outside provinces will have to wait a little longer to travel to these areas. 

He also said that foreign travelers who plan to visit the Philippines will not be allowed entry amid the existing travel restriction imposed by the Philippine government especially for non-essential travel. 

But he said the DOT is currently exploring travel circuits for Boracay Island which was the first major tourism attraction to welcome residents from the Western Visayas region.