Having been to Israel recently where locals and tourists are no longer burdened by COVID-19 related restrictions and requirements, I noticed that the Philippines is behind in terms of freedom (from COVID-19 restrictions) on the part of people, businesses and tourists. In short, the Philippines still has yet to fully move on to post-pandemic life.
As the Philippines really needs to attract more tourists from overseas this year and fully revive the tourist industry as a whole, the Department of Tourism (DOT) announced recently the scrapping of mask wearing and proof of vaccination as requirements in tourism enterprises around the country, the Manila Bulletin reported. In other words, tourists and tourism-related business joints will have lesser COVID-19 hassles to deal with.
To put things in perspective, posted below is the excerpt from the Manila Bulletin news report. Some parts in boldface…
As the country’s tourist destinations become more open for travelers, showing proof of vaccination and wearing masks are no longer required in tourism enterprises, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said on Monday, March 6.
Supporting the “national government’s liberalization of the COVID-19 restrictions in the country”, the DOT released the Memorandum Circular (MC) 2023-0002 to further ease health and safety guidelines governing the operations of tourism establishments. According to Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, the MC is a follow-through of the efforts they started last year to assist the economic hardships of tourism stakeholders by issuing regulations pushing for the opening of the country to tourism.
“This latest issuance on the relaxed health and safety guidelines for tourism establishments reinforces the Department of Tourism’s commitment towards addressing the economic hardships of the tourism industry brought about by the lockdowns and restrictions of the pandemic,” she noted.
“Our country is open for tourism, and that we are keeping up with global practices on tourism operations that have already opened up worldwide,” she went on.
The tourism department already made similar issuances last year through its Office of Tourism Standards and Regulation (OTSR) and regional offices following the signing of Executive Order No. 7, which mandated the voluntary wearing of mask in indoor and outdoor settings.
It can be recalled that the OTSR issued Memorandum 2022-509 in November 2022 reiterating the voluntary wearing of face masks and the waning requirement on the presentation of proof of full vaccination in tourism enterprises.
Last month, on the other hand, the Department of Trade and Industry Safety Seal Secretariat announced the discontinuance of the Safety Seal Certification Program, the voluntary certification scheme affirming that an establishment is compliant with the minimum public health standards set by the government and uses or integrates its contact tracing with staysafe.ph.
Through DOT MC 2023-0002, the DOT ordered the lifting of the previous administration’s earlier requirement for tourism establishments to install plastic, acrylic barriers, and dividers in designated areas, and likewise ordered the removal of signages, visual cues, and other installations on mandatory protocols, which have since been liberalized by the national government.
“In adherence to the country’s policy shifts on minimum public health standards, the DOT also announced that it shall no longer issue the PH Safety Seal and WTTC Safe Travels Stamp to tourism enterprises found compliant to guidelines set in accordance with Joint Memorandum Circular No. 21-01 issued by the DOT and other national government agencies on the Safety Seal Certification Program, and Memorandum Circular 2022-003, respectively,” it was disclosed.
Let me end this piece by asking you readers: What is your reaction to this new development? Do you think the latest moves by the DOT will make the Philippines a more convenient and friendlier place for both local and foreign tourists? Do you think that the Department of Health (DOH) should stay away from the tourism industry and let the DOT handle all the COVID-19 related matters? If you are managing a business trying to attract tourists, what is the one thing about COVID-19 rules that harms your business the most?
You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.
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