MANILA, (Mabuhay) — Business travelers from other countries may be allowed to enter the Philippines once quarantine restrictions have been eased to modified general community quarantine (GCQ), an official of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Sunday.

Tourism Undersecretary Bong Bengzon said that it is the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases that has the final say on whether to allow foreign business travelers to enter the country.

“[Pero] pagdating ng modified GCQ, pwede nang payagan, basta siyempre the assumption is meron na ring pahintulot galing sa ating mga health authorities na papasukin itong mga dayuhang ito,” Bengzon said.

“Importante pa rin itong mga protocols natin in place pagdating sa international gateways,” he added.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to recalibrate its COVID-19 response plan by taking into consideration the lessons learned from battling the pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the ASEAN leaders had a consensus on pushing for vaccine development. He said the leaders agreed that all countries should be given access to the vaccines once they become available.

Roque also said there were proposals to open ASEAN for business travelers subject to health protocols.

While many areas in the country are already under modified GCQ, most of the urban areas like Metro Manila and Davao City are still under GCQ and Cebu City is under ECQ until June 30.

Bengzon said the DOT also considers business travelers from other countries as tourists, following the definition of the World Tourism Organization.

“Kapag pumasok ‘yan dito, siyempre makikinabang ang ating mga tourism establishments na talaga namang kailangan nating tulungan dahil karamihan sa kanila ay nawalan ng negosyo nitong nakaraang tatlong buwan,” he said.

The Philippine tourism industry has suffered much from the travel restrictions that had to be imposed to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the country, Bengzon said.

He pointed out that from January to May this year, the number of foreign travelers who entered the country has gone down to 62%.

He added that tourism revenues during the first five months of the year also plummeted to P80 billion compared to P205 billion during the same period last year.

Bengzon admitted that allowing the entry of business travelers from other countries will be a big help for the country’s tourism industry, although he said that domestic tourism also contributes a lot in terms of overall revenue.

“Nag-uumpisa nang manumbalik itong tourism activities at ‘yung mga kabuhayan. Pero gaya nga ng laging sinasabi ni Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, ang ating recovery has to be gradual, steady pero sigurado kasi hindi tayo puwedeng bumalik doon sa pinanggalingan natin,” he said.

“Responsibilidad ng bawat turista, tsaka siyempre itong mga tourism enterprises, na sundin pa rin itong ating mga health and safety protocols para matulungan din ang ating health authorities na ma-contain itong situation,” he added. (MNS)

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