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Stranded tourists get special flights, can book hotels

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Wednesday said it would coordinate sweeper, or special flights for stranded foreign tourists, with flights leaving Boracay, Davao and Puerto Princesa starting on Thursday until the weekend.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said some 2,500 foreign travelers stranded around the country should contact the DOT’s regional offices “so they can quickly be assisted.”

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Most of the stranded foreigners are in Central Visayas with 899, followed by Davao, 540; Western Visayas, 291; Bicol, 177; and Northern Mindanao, 150.

The DOT, in a statement, said it had already assisted 7,915 tourists through chartered flights, or sweeper flights arranged with Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia and AirSwift.

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The tourists were transported from various destinations to Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport, where flights arranged by foreign embassies were waiting.

Other DOT regional offices are facilitating the land and sea transport of the stranded travelers, using interisland vessels, including those by the Philippine Coast Guard.

Hotel bookings allowed

The Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) meanwhile clarified that tourists, both foreign and domestic, are allowed to book hotel rooms and accommodations, and go freely to airports, sea ports and bus terminals for their flights.

The IATF issued the directives on Wednesday following reports that hotels, complying with earlier government regulations, had kicked out foreign tourists whose bookings ended upon the declaration of the Luzon-wide lockdown.

Under enhanced community quarantine rules, hotels cannot accept new bookings.

But IATF spokesperson Karlo Nograles said stranded passengers were now allowed to book hotels and seek temporary accommodations, with hotels required to provide single occupancy rooms for health workers and repatriated overseas Filipino workers, and double occupancy for other individuals.

Free and unimpeded access to and from government transport facilities are also allowed for them and their vehicles, Nograles said, adding that “no fee or any other requirement shall be imposed by the LGUs [local government units] in this regard.”

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An earlier rule saying that outbound passengers can travel to airports only within 24 hours of their flight has been amended as well, he said, after complaints that the time limit made things difficult for stranded tourists.

LGUs should not make it hard for foreign nationals to leave the country, Nograles said.

No US, Schengen visa

In a Twitter post, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he would make sure that owners of hotels that kicked out stranded foreign tourists won’t get a visa for the United States, Europe “or any advanced country.”

“We will blacklist hotels and inns that turn away stranded tourists or overcharge. I will know who you are and I will make sure that no one ever books a room with you again and that your ugly owners and their children never ever get a US or EU visa. F*#k you,” he tweeted.

Locsin also ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to receive complaints from affected tourists.

—With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan

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TAGS: Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19, stranded tourists, Tourism
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