DOT to subsidize COVID-19 tests for Boracay-bound tourists
ILOILO CITY –– The government will subsidize the cost of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) swab tests for Boracay Island visitors amid complaints of the high cost of going to the island.
The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force agreed during a meeting on Boracay Island on Wednesday to provide low-cost or free Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests for Boracay-bound non-Aklanon tourists.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) will lead the implementation of the program in partnership with the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).
The government subsidy will be provided through the Tourism Promotion Board (TPB), the DOT’s marketing arm.
“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,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat in a statement.
The present UP-PGH test kit costs P1,800 per kit, much lower than standard charges for tests starting at P3,500.
Tourists bound for Boracay, except Aklanons, are required to secure a negative RT-PCT test result within 72 hours before traveling to the island.
Business operators have repeatedly complained that the requirement discouraged more tourists from going to the island, even those from Iloilo and other Western Visayas areas.
The business owners have been pushing for the lifting of the RT-PCR test and requiring rapid antigen tests.
The BIATF agreed to allow the transition to rapid antigen test for Boracay, but still subject to the task force’s “favorable evaluation of the island’s contact-tracing capability and implementation of health and safety protocols.”
The DOT will also lead in the training of personnel of the local governments of Aklan and Malay towns on case investigation, contact-tracing, referral, and other COVID-19 related operations.
The training will be supervised by Baguio City Mayor and Contact-Tracing Czar Benjamin Magalong. Testing will also be ramped up on the island with the DOT providing 1,500 RT-PCR test kits for Boracay.
In preparation for more tourists, the DOT Western Visayas office has continued its inspection and accreditation of establishments.
From Oct. 1 to 29, at least 2,337 tourists, including 1,421 from Metro Manila, visited the island. This increased by 56 percent to 4,154 from Nov. 1 to 30. including 2,863 from Metro Manila.
The figures were far from the average daily tourist arrivals from 3,000 to 5,000 before the pandemic.
As of Nov. 30, DOT-6 has issued a Certificate of Authority to Operate to 258 accommodation establishments with a combined capacity of 5,846 rooms.
It has also accredited 24 restaurants, 14 tourist/specialty shops, 12 travel and tour agencies, seven tourism recreational facilities/centers, 12 community guides, and six regional guides.
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