4,500 foreigners thrown out by hotels due to Luzon quarantine
MANILA, Philippines — Some 4,500 foreign tourists were “kicked out” of hotels and ended up sleeping in the open since the government declared a Luzon-wide lockdown last week and restricted all travels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deputy head of the European Union delegation to the Philippines, Thomas Wiersing, on Tuesday called the attention of Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to the plight of about 4,500 foreign tourists “stranded in the Philippines” because they could not book any flights home.
Locsin readily took to Twitter to rant against hotels that locked out their foreign guests.
“Met EU CDA (Charge d’Affaires) Thomas Wiersing who delivered the bad news that foreign tourists are sleeping in open air w/o shelter or roof over their heads because their hotels kicked [them] out once their bookings end, even if they fail to book domestic flights out,” Locsin tweeted.
Even those who are pregnant or have medical conditions are not being given consideration, Locsin said, adding that he would call on the Department of Tourism (DOT) to blacklist the hotels that kicked out foreign guests.
The stranded tourists are from the EU, which has 27 member-countries, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Locsin said the EU envoy asked the government to increase the frequency of domestic flights or sea transport from the islands to international ports, and to allow them to get shelter if there was no flight “out of plain human decency.”
He alerted the Department of Transportation to assist all the stranded tourists to reach international airports where they can take flights, including those arranged by their embassies.
He said local government units that stop the tourists from taking domestic carriers in view of the Luzon lockdown “should be sanctioned.”
Under the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases guidelines on the so-called enhanced community quarantine issued on March 18, hotels are not allowed to operate unless they accommodate “guests who have existing booking accommodations for foreigners as of March 17, 2020; guests who have existing long-term leases; and employees from exempted establishments” with essential work like healthcare and food service.
The IATF guidelines said unless it will be for employees from exempted establishments, “no new booking accommodations shall be permitted.”
“In all cases, hotel operations shall be limited to the provision of basic lodging to guests,” the guidelines added.
The DOT’s guidelines on hotels also said no hotels, resorts, tourist inns, motels and the like were allowed to operate except for those with: foreign guests with existing bookings under any accommodation establishment as of 17 March 2020; long-staying guests with existing bookings as of 17 March 2020; and guests who are employees of neighboring basic establishments like supermarkets and hospitals.
“New bookings of only these guests are allowed,” the DOT said.
Locsin nevertheless put the blame on the hotels, even if they were following government orders.Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Tuesday said her office would investigate these hotels and establishments in question and file legal actions if necessary. “It is regrettable that these incidents occurred even after we released our implementing rules and regulations for hotels during the community quarantine,” Puyat said in a statement.
The secretary said DOT’s regional offices are in “constant coordination” with local government units and embassies in the Philippines to address the foreign tourists’ plight. “Rest assured, we will be helping all stranded tourists find temporary accommodation until they are able to find outgoing flights back to their countries,” she said. INQ
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