Yes, travel outside of the NCR-Plus is now allowed but it cannot be a spontaneous act. A lot of preparation is needed to get all the travel documents together, which will depend on the requirements set by the local government unit (LGU) of your destination.
We recently drove to Tibiao town in Antique to attend to an urgent family matter and we had to show four documents to each person who asked for our papers in every port we passed.
The four documents are the S-pass, the result of your RT-PCR test (should be negative, of course), the letter of acceptance from the LGU of the town, and a health declaration required by the province of Aklan for all travelers passing through. Add to that a photostat copy of your government-issued ID.
Preparing those documents need time. For one, the test for COVID-19 should be taken 72 hours before the intended arrival. It is only after you get the negative result that you can start applying for the S-Pass (go to the S-Pass website and create an account).
The next step is to coordinate with the LGU of your destination to get the “notice of acceptance.” Needed for this is the result of your RT-PCR test. An added requirement in my case was the health declaration from the province of Aklan. I had to go to the Aklan website to apply for the “Online health declaration card.”
With the two documents, you now go back to the S-Pass website to submit the documents. When approved, you will get your S-Pass with the QR code.
At the Batangas Port, four persons asked for the S-Pass of each person in the vehicle (only my son and I) — the guard meters away from the gate, the guard at the gate, the person at the booth who directed us to a scan our QR code, and a man at the queuing line of vehicles waiting to be directed to board a ferry.
After the ferry docked at the port of Calapan, Mindoro, a person on the ferry ramp inspected all the documents and asked for our destination. We said we were “passing thru” (driving to the next port to catch a ferry to Panay). We were directed away from the long line of trucks which were waiting for the inspection of their documents.
The documents were inspected again at the next port, in our case, Bulalacao. (The old port is in Roxas town.) We were catching a Fast Cat ferry from the Port of Bulalacao to Caticlan, Aklan. The guard at the gate was expecting us (because we had a reservation) and after inspecting our documents, directed us to the coast guard office.
People in PPEs boarded the Fast Cat ferry as soon as we landed Caticlan Port in Aklan province. The inspection of the documents was more meticulous and each passenger was interviewed by the health personnel, temperatures were taken, and the original government-issued IDs were requested. We were also asked to fill up forms, the same ones we filled up at the other port.
A photo of our vehicle with its plate number was taken and sent to the Tibiao LGU in Antique. It was now under their responsibility to monitor us.
A few minutes before we landed Caticlan port, the barangay health unit staff of Tibiao had sent a text message asking information that we had filed when we applied for a permit to be accepted in the town. Their second text came after we rolled off the ferry. It directed us to set our waze to the municipal building of Tibiao. We were instructed to proceed directly to the isolation center where we would be processed upon arrival.
There, our temperatures were again taken, questions were asked (why are we there), and we were told that we had to be under home isolation for seven days.
On the seventh day, I got a text message from the same person who had been monitoring us since we docked at Caticlan port. It asked if we were feeling certain symptoms related to signs of COVID. We were all feeling good and very well rested after seven days of home isolation. Then we were informed that our isolation ends on that day and we could now go out.
On the way back to Metro Manila, only one document was requested — the S-Pass. But processing of passengers was still done at the port of Roxas in Mindoro where we all had to get down from the car to be profiled by the health unit staff at a building near the driveway leading to the exit.
The travel experience was good. LGUs are protecting our borders.
As an added safety measure, I suggest that you avoid sitting in the air-conditioned areas of the ferry. I sat at the economy area where the open space gave fresh air. Bring a jacket and blanket to protect you from the cold if you are traveling at night.
After more than a year of various lockdown categories, seeing the open road, the forests, the wide blue sea made all the inconveniences of travel worth it.