Boracay tourists still need to be tested for COVID-19, says Aklan guv
ILOILO CITY—Tourists bound for Boracay Island are still required to submit negative COVID-19 test results despite the easing of travel restrictions for fully vaccinated persons.
But the Department of Tourism (DOT) and local officials are confident that tourist arrivals will continue to increase as the vaccination of workers started on the island on Wednesday.
At a press conference in Boracay, Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores said the current requirement for tourists to submit a negative test result within 72 hours before their trip would still be implemented until they could set up a system to validate vaccination cards.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) last week issued a resolution allowing those fully vaccinated to travel in provinces and cities with varying levels of community quarantine if they could present proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or World Health Organization.
Miraflores, who was joined by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, testing czar Vince Dizon and acting Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista, said it was the decision of the provincial IATF to maintain the existing requirements for tourists over concerns of falsification of vaccination cards.
“If falsification of (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR) test results can be done, then this can also happen with vaccination cards,” Bautista said.
Local authorities have arrested at least 100 tourists with falsified RT-PCR test results since October last year when the island was reopened to all domestic tourists. Criminal complaints had been filed against them.
According to Miraflores, the local government will waive COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated tourists when a system of validation is put in place.
He said vaccination cards were being issued by different centers and local governments, noting that these documents lacked contact details.
“It is very difficult to validate these,” Miraflores said.
Baguio City is implementing the IATF resolution because about 40 percent of its population had already been vaccinated, Puyat said.
Vaccines for island workers
Puyat, Dizon, and the local officials led the ceremonial vaccination of tourism workers on a beachfront in Boracay.
The DOT and the local governments of Aklan and Malay are targeting to vaccinate an initial 3,000 tourism workers. These include 2,178 employees of accommodation establishments, 308 in restaurants, and 140 in tourist transport.
Also to be vaccinated are 374 tourism front-line personnel, including tour guides, boatmen, electric trike drivers, airport and seaport front-liners, and aqua/water sports providers, according to Puyat.
They were identified by the Malay government and business groups Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay, Boracay Foundation Inc., and the Compliance Association of Boracay.
Around 500 workers would be scheduled for vaccination daily.
Puyat said around 4.5 percent, or 1,833 residents and workers, on the island had been vaccinated and this would increase to 12 percent once the inoculation of local tourism workers would be completed.
Dizon said more vaccines would be allocated to Boracay Island and Malay town.
“The faster we complete the vaccination of tourism workers in Boracay, the better not just for the island but for the entire country,” he said.
Tourist arrivals in Boracay reached 2.03 million in 2019 with revenues reaching P58.18 billion. But travel restrictions and health concerns when the pandemic struck devastated the economy of the island after businesses started shutting down, resulting in the retrenchment of workers.
Arrivals reached 26,354 in June, the highest since March last year before the island was closed to tourists. INQ
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