Ilocos Norte, Boracay now open to NCR Plus tourists
MANILA, Philippines — Boracay Island and the province of Ilocos Norte have reopened to leisure travelers coming mostly from Metro Manila as restrictions were eased in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Rizal, Laguna, Cavite and Bulacan containment bubble (NCR Plus).
Business owners and residents of Boracay said they were looking forward to welcoming back tourists into the island.
“After the long lockdown of (NCR), we see a bit of hope again for businesses … The hotels have received some bookings and we are sure the Department of Tourism will further promote destinations like Boracay to start (the) recovery,” Wesley Van Der Voort, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay, said in a statement sent to the Inquirer.
In a resolution, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed leisure travel to and from the so-called NCR Plus bubble to areas under a modified general community quarantine, the most relaxed quarantine classification, from June 1 to 15.
Those allowed to travel to Boracay are still subject to travel and health protocols, which include a mandatory preboarding COVID-19 test through swab or saliva specimens.After the lockdown in March last year, Boracay Island reopened to tourists from Western Visayas on June 16 of the same year and from other areas in October.
But just when tourist arrivals were starting to pick up, it again slumped in March this year due to the lockdown implemented in NCR Plus areas.
Many businesses on the island have shut down due to the lack of tourists.
Point to point
Van Der Voort said the island “cannot afford to close again or have another lockdown.”
“We should learn how to live with the pandemic,” said, as Van Der Voort as he encouraged local governments to present clear guidelines for tourists and residents and workers who regularly travel between the island and the mainland to avert a repeat of the recent community outbreak on the island.
In Ilocos Norte, leisure travel between NCR Plus areas and the province would be “point-to-point” only, which means there would be no side trips, the local tourism office said.
Tourists from NCR Plus areas would still be subjected to health protocols and must present negative results from reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test or saliva test taken within 72 hours prior to their arrival at the provincial border.
Tourists could also undergo a rapid antigen test upon arrival at the border.
Before the pandemic, millions of tourists would flock to Ilocos Norte during the peak season from March to June.
At least 1.6 million tourists visited the province in 2019 alone, according to local tourism data.
In Zambales province, the tourism office has allowed the use of saliva testing in accommodating leisure travelers.
The province initially only allowed entry for those with negative RT-PCR test results. —NESTOR P. BURGOS JR., JOHN MICHAEL MUGAS AND JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT
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