Ilocos Norte will reopen its doors to local tourists from Luzon, including those from areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), beginning Oct. 15.
Tourists will required to present a negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) result within 48 hours before entry to the province.
“We’re elated with the decision of Gov. Manotoc to finally welcome visitors from Luzon to Ilocos Norte, even those coming from areas that are still under General Community Quarantine,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.
Manotoc had initially signed up for the North Luzon Regional Tourism Circuit with Baguio City as its partner for the “Ridge to Reef” travel bubble program.
“The province’s success in managing the number of COVID-19 cases, not to mention an array of cultural sites, natural attractions, and fun activities, make it really worth the long drive for people looking for a cure for their cabin fever,” Puyat said.
To assist the province in effectively monitoring the movement of its initial target number of 50 tourists per day, the Tourism chief announced that the Department of Tourism (DOT) shall introduce a visitor management system to the province, akin to the Visitor Information and Travel Assistance or VISITA platform it provided to Baguio City through the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB).
“With the pandemic and the virus still among us, the DOT realizes the importance of harnessing the full potential of digital or ‘contactless’ technology to avoid transmissions as domestic tourism is reopened. In the event that a COVID-19 positive tourist manages to enter any of the country’s tourism destinations, contact tracing must be fast and seamless,” Puyat said.
The DOT will continue to extend support to the provincial government by ensuring that necessary health and safety protocols are strictly enforced in tourist sites, hotels, and other tourism-related establishments that seek to accommodate tourists from Luzon.
As of Oct. 9, the Tourism department has issued certificates of authority to 208 hotels and resorts in Ilocos Norte.
The regional tourism office will also regularly check the compliance of these establishments to the health and safety standards.
The Tourism chief reminded tourists looking to visit the province to respect and follow the province’s protocols for travelers.
Batangas dive resorts allowed to open
Meanwhile, dive establishments in Batangas and other specific areas under GCQ and Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) will now be allowed to reopen, Malacañang announced on Friday.
In a statement, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that the reopening covers dive establishments in specific areas under GCQ and MGCQ, such as Batangas and other areas as may be identified by the DOT.
These establishments may now accept recreational divers as guests as long as they are from areas under the GCQ or lower.
Roque, however, said that divers should wait for the necessary guidelines that will be issued by the DOT in coordination with other government stakeholders.
“The DOT shall issue the necessary guidelines in coordination and consultation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the identified local government units,” he said.
Last month, dive operators in Mabini, Batangas, appealed to the national government to allow the underwater activity to resume, saying it is a safer activity compared to leisure travels to the beach.
According to the Resort Owners Association of Mabini (ROAM), more than 2,000 resort operators, instructors, and boatmen in Anilao, a popular diving spot, have lost their jobs not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic but also because of the Taal Volcano eruption.
In a letter to the IATF and the DOT in September this year, ROAM said that scuba diving is considered as an “outdoor non-contact sport” and should be allowed based on IATF guidelines as long as health and safety protocols are observed.
The IATF has allowed the conduct of non-contact sports as long as participants are wearing face masks, observing physical distancing, and are not sharing equipment.
The following outdoor non-contact sports and other forms of exercise are allowed in areas under the GCQ and MGCQ provided that minimum public health standards are observed:
10. Range shooting, and
11. Skateboarding, among others
However, spectators are still prohibited in all outdoor non-contact sports and exercises in any quarantine classification.