MANILA, Jan 31 (Mabuhay) — Officials in Boracay are preparing to welcome foreign tourists again, nearly two years since the Philippines imposed strict border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the island’s tourism officer said Sunday.

Officials in Aklan, where the popular tourist destination is located, have started holding a “series of meetings” in relation to the return of foreign tourists, said Felix delos Santos.

“Ngayon, [we’re] still in the process of crafting [guidelines] pero nasisigurado po na nandiyan pa rin ‘yong health and safety protocol natin for the protection of our tourists as well as with our community,” Delos Santos said.

Boracay may require negative RT-PCR test results and proof of vaccination from foreigners, the same requirements it asks from local tourists, Delos Santos said.

He stressed that the island, which has a population that relies mainly on tourism for their livelihood, needs foreign tourists to recover from the pandemic.

“Based mismo sa recovery and resiliency plan natin, talagang if ever talagang ‘di makapasok ‘yong foreign tourist natin, talagang hindi siya makakabawi,” he said.

Officials project that it will take five years before Boracay recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, Delos Santos added, noting that nearly half of 314 accredited establishments have temporarily closed due to the pandemic.

He assured that local officials validate the documents that tourists submit upon entry to Boracay, and there is a referral system in case any tourist tests positive for COVID-19.

From Jan. 1 to 28, Boracay saw 33,756 tourist arrivals, according to Delos Santos.

Starting Feb. 1, the Philippines will start accepting international travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (MNS)

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