Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat on last December Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) Meeting in the island, hammered in the importance of strictly enforcing health and safety protocols to raise visitor confidence. “We cannot stress fully enough the importance of showing our seriousness in carrying out our protocols and guidelines. Our local leadership is key in bringing forward our improved image. Furthermore, it is our wish to make more affordable RT-PCR tests to encourage more visits.”
To this end, Secretary Puyat announced the ongoing partnership with the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) to partly subsidize the cost of RT-PCR for domestic tourists. The present UP-PGH cost is at Php1,800 per kit, much lower than those charged by most of the testing laboratory centers. The subsidy will come from DOT7apos;s marketing arm, Tourism Promotion Board (TPB).
The BIATF triumvirate, chaired by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Ano and DOT Secretary Puyat serving as vice-chairs, later agreed on the following measures:
1) the DOT to lead the implementation of low-cost or free Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) for Boracay-bound non-Aklanon tourists in partnership with the UP-PGH;
2) the DOT to facilitate the training of personnel and representatives of the provincial government of Aklan and municipal government of Malay on case investigation, contact-tracing, referral, and other COVID-19 related operations under the supervision of Baguio City Mayor and Contact-Tracing Czar Benjamin B. Magalong;
3) the DOT to secure at least 1,500 RT-PCR test kits for the implementation of expanded testing in Boracay Island; and
4) Subject to the BIATF’s favorable evaluation of the island’s contact-tracing capability and implementation of health and safety protocols, LGU Aklan may transition to the use of Rapid Antigen Tests (Ag-RDTs) for the entry of non-Aklanon tourists into Boracay.
Other meeting participants include Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) General Manager Natividad Bernardino, Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores, Malay Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, and other Boracay stakeholders.
“Now that we have just around six months to go in the BIATF’s term, let’s make our time count. Let’s continue to push for 100 percent compliance with health guidelines and environmental rules and fulfill our mandate to fully restore Boracay as a source of pride, worthy of being recognized as a national asset that contributes significantly to the socio-economic growth of this country,” Puyat added.
Meanwhile, the DOT Regional Office continues its inspection and accreditation of tourism establishments and related enterprises. As of November 30, 258 AEs have been issued Certificates of Authority to Operate (CAOs), with a combined capacity of 5,846 rooms, as well as accredited 24 restaurants, 14 Tourist/Specialty Shops, 12 Travel and Tours Agencies, seven Tourism Recreational Facilities/Centers, 12 Community Guides, and six Regional Guides.
The DOT continues to bank on the support of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the LGU to monitor and remind tourists to observe proper health and hygiene protocols. (Featured photo of Boracay taken from https://www.facebook.com/Department-of-Tourism-Boracay-Field-Office-1124057427618776)