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DOT offers free swab tests for local tourists

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:07 AM November 02, 2021

QUICK GETAWAY People spend the All Saints’ Day holiday at the Picnic Grove in Tagaytay City, the top tourist destination in Cavite province popular for its “sweater weather” and restaurants and parks offering a view of Taal Volcano. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines — Domestic tourists can now have anti-COVID swab tests for free.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has rolled out a new phase of its financial subsidy, through the Tourism Promotions Board, to boost its domestic tourism recovery program.

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Under the subsidy, 350 applicants a day will be given free RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC).

More than 12,000 qualified domestic tourists are seen to benefit from the program until the end of the year, the DOT said.

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According to Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, the program is part of the department’s efforts to market and promote the country as a safe tourism destination and pave the way for a more robust recovery of the tourism industry.

The recovery of the tourism industry had been hampered by the cost of the testing required by the local government units of the tourist destinations as part of the health and safety protocols against COVID-19. Many domestic tourists have had to put off travel plans because of the added cost of testing.

Domestic tourists wishing to avail themselves of the free testing at the PCMC may visit https://www.tpb.gov.ph/rtpcrphtravel/ for application procedures and requirements.

Destinations

Puyat clarified that the free testing was only for domestic tourists whose destination still required a negative result from an RT-PCR test or for staycation purposes, adding that many of the country’s destinations now accept fully vaccinated visitors without requiring the swab test.

At the televised Laging Handa public briefing on Monday, an official of the popular beach destination Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro said the town had started accepting fully vaccinated tourists and other travelers.

Municipal administrator Carmela Datinguinoo said partially vaccinated persons, or those who only had one dose, whether tourist or resident, could also come provided they take a free antigen test at the molecular laboratory that the town set up at the Batangas terminal, the main gateway to Puerto Galera.

Datinguinoo said all economic front-liners in Puerto Galera, tourism workers included, were now fully vaccinated. About 64 percent of the target town population have also been fully vaccinated.

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She said the town now averaged 1,000 tourists a day compared to just 50 in the previous months.

Those going to Puerto Galera must register with the S-PASS (Safe, Swift and Smart Passage) travel management website that the Department of Science and Technology has set up.

Boracay has also seen a resurgence in tourists, with 32,462 travelers mainly from Metro Manila visiting the island last month, the second highest number during the pandemic.

Felix delos Santos, municipal tourism officer, said the 2,371 tourists on Oct. 30 and 2,077 on Oct. 31 were the highest daily arrivals since March 2020.

Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores earlier said the provincial government would scrap the current requirement for tourists to submit a negative RT-PCR test when the vaccination target for the island had been reached.

THEY’RE BACK: Tourists pack a stretch of Boracay’s white beach on Oct. 30, as the resort island in Aklan starts welcoming a steady stream of visitors amid the pandemic. —JACK JARILLA

Boracay’s curfew hours have also been shortened to four hours, from 12 a.m to 4 a.m, starting Oct. 29.

In Cebu province, inbound travelers no longer need to present a negative RT-PCR test result.

On Oct. 1, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued a memorandum informing travelers going to the province that they only needed to present a medical certificate showing that they did not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 at the point of origin.

In Cebu City, fully inoculated individuals only need to present a vaccination card with a QR code.

In Bohol, fully vaccinated persons who want to enter the island-province need three requirements: a vaccination card, a government-issued identification card and an S-PASS.

—WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING, LEO UDTOHAN, NESTLE SEMILLA, DALE ISRAEL and Nestor P. Burgos jr. INQ
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