The tourist-centric town of Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro has dropped the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test or swab test in its list of travel requirements as it tries to jumpstart the local economy.
“We have decided to remove the swab test as a requirement for tourists who want to go to Puerto Galera. Instead, tourists must provide a medical certificate before being allowed to enter our town,” Puerto Galera Mayor Rocky D. Ilagan said in a statement dated Feb. 26.
Ilagan also announced that the local government unit (LGU) has decided to reopen the Balatero Pier and Muelle Pier for public ferries as part of its efforts to gradually revive the tourism industry.
According to Ilagan, the high cost of the water taxi and the swab test have become a “major tum-off” for most tourists who want to visit Puerto Galera.
While the strict regulations imposed by the LGU helped the town to maintain very few COVID-19 cases, Ilagan noted that it also caused their economy to fall after “tourist arrivals plummeted drastically”.
“Many tourist towns like ours have opened and removed travel requirements to make it easier for local tourists to visit them. As a result, domestic tourists are now visiting them and their economy is starting to rejuvenate, and many are able to work again,” Ilagan said.
“We studied the opening of the ports and we found that the swab test would be useless if tourists shall be closely sharing limited space with the APOR (authorized persons outside residence), LSI (locally stranded individual), and other passengers without swab test on the same bus, ferry and terminal,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ilagan said that the local government will formulate policies and guidelines to improve the system of entry of tourists to Puerto Galera. Ilagan assured residents and stakeholders that the LGU will also enhance and intensify the implementation of the standard health protocols to ensure everyone’s safety amid the pandemic.