For tourism's sake: Villafuerte backs call for LGUs to ease entry restrictions

A House leader is encouraging local government units (LGUs) to support the Marcos administration’s efforts to bring the country back to normalcy by ditching whatever entry restrictions on inbound travellers they might still have in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte (Facebook)

“Keeping the strict restrictions on the entry of travellers or tourists up to now defeats the purpose of Executive Order (EO) No.7," Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte said in a statement Tuesday, Nov 15.

He said President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. issued the directive to further relax anti-Covid health and travel protocols nationwide and as part of accelerated government efforts to fully open the economy and rev up the once flourishing tourism sector.

“EO No.7 will be rendered useless if international travellers or tourists would finally be enticed anew to go to the Philippines, only to end up being saddled, upon their arrival in the national capital or elsewhere, with troublesome entry requirements in the local places they want to visit," noted Villafuerte, majority leader of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) in the House of Representatives.

"How can Malacañan Palace and the DOT (Department of Tourism) convincingly tell the rest of the world that the Philippines is truly open for business and for tourists if the burdensome travel protocols that were put up as part of the anti-Covid lockdowns or mobility restrictions are still in place?” the Bicolano asked.

Villafuerte is backing the appeal of DOT Secretary Christina Frasco for local officials, through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), to lift entry restrictions on travellers that they had enforced in their respective LGUs since the pandemic broke out in 2020.

According to a report, Frasco told members of the Filipino community during a recent dialogue in London, United Kingdom that she was in talks with the DILG on withdrawing local-travel restrictions that continue to be enforced by LGUs.

“We’re currently working with the DILG for the purpose of ensuring that any and all restrictions individually implemented by LGUs nationwide are lifted so that we have a national policy as far as the entry of tourists is concerned. The national policy being, to welcome our friends and family back into the Philippines," she was quoted as saying.

Villafuerte, president of the National Unity Party (NUP), said, “It is nice to know that we are starting to see a turnaround in our tourism business, with the number of arrivals hitting 1.9 million at the start of November, or higher than this year’s official target of 1.7 million and 2021’s total arrivals of 1.4 million.”

“But there is really no room for complacency here, when one considers that our regional rivals, like Thailand, for instance, already had seven million tourists as of October, and expects its visitor arrivals to reach a total of 10 million by end-December,” he said.

“We certainly have no way of catching up, much less overtake our ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) competitors for tourists when we continue to have barriers like cumbersome local-travel requirements that naturally turn off prospective visitors," the former deputy speaker said.