Authorities' job to ensure health protocol compliance as tourism picks up, says Vargas

Quezon City 5th district Rep. Alfred Vargas stressed that it's the authorities' job to ensure that Covid-19 pandemic-related health protocols are met amid the surge of visitors in local tourism spots.

(Laurentiu Morariu/ Unsplash)

“While we truly understand the public’s eagerness to visit tourist spots after two years of travel restrictions, it remains to be the responsibility of authorities to enforce the basic health protocols and other guidelines set by the DOT (Department of Tourism), the DOH Department of Health), and the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force),” he added.

In a draft House Resolution he filed, Vargas urged national and local authorities, as well as the tourism sector to draw up comprehensive measures to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases in tourist destinations.

He said these include ramping up booster vaccination efforts in lagging municipalities and cities.

“Needless to state, these measures should be enforced strictly and diligently by all the key players, from national and local agencies to the hotels and other tourism establishments. We need to protect our tourism workers, who form the backbone of the industry,” added Vargas, chairman of the House Committee on Social Services.

He made these statements following reports from the DOT that the number of visitors to Boracay Island during the Holy Week break exceeded the limit set by authorities.

The DOH also warned of a potentially significant increase in cases by May as a result of non-compliance with health protocols amid the surge in travel.

“The tourism industry plays a key role in reviving our economy. It follows that our tourist destinations should be protected from being hotspots for any resurgence in Covid-19 cases,” Vargas said.

Vargas had earlier commended the DOT for its efforts to ensure the speedy recovery of the tourism sector, after health officials eased Covid-19 restrictions nationwide.

Easing these restrictions has created opportunities for the full recovery of the tourism industry, but the risk of triggering a surge in Covid-19 cases has also increased, he said, noting the overcrowding and non-compliance with minimum public health standards (MPHS).

Vargas said the risk is further aggravated by the appearance of Covid-19 sub-variants in South Africa and a number of countries in Europe.

“It is important to support the local tourism industry without sacrificing the safety and well-being of our fellow Filipinos, especially our fellow Filipinos who work as front liners in our hotels, restaurants, resorts, airports and docks, and tourist destinations and facilities,” he said in a draft resolution.