By Macon Araneta

Sen. Nancy Binay on September 28  said safety and health protocols should be the top priority as Boracay is set to open its doors to local tourists on October 1.

“While we recognize that this is a step towards getting the Tourism sector and our economy back on track, we would like to remind the Department of Tourism and would-be travelers that health and safety should always be our first priority,” Binay said.

Binay cited how re-opening  tourism spots triggered a second wave of infections in Croatia and Vietnam.

“Look at the experiences of Croatia and Vietnam. Perhaps we can learn many lessons from them on why the decision to open the borders to visitors could trigger a resurgence of COVID-19  cases,” Binay said.

“Both the DoT and the local government of Boracay should tighten health protocols to ensure the safety of all stakeholders,” she added

Binay stressed she is puzzled why DoT is allowing tourists of all ages to enter the island which is inconsistent from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Covid-19’s suggestion that minors and senior citizens should stay at home while in General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).

“I think many were questioning why the age restrictions are relaxed pagdating sa Boracay. Children are allowed to go  on trips but prevented from going to classes,” said Binay.

“The government has been saying there should be physical distancing  but in buses and trains, people are allowed to be near each other,” she added.

“How do we make our messaging clear to the public when government health and safety policies are disconnected and disjointed amongst government agencies?” Binay asked.

Binay also urged the DoT to have clear-cut guidelines to avoid confusing tourists. She said the agency should learn from the recent conflicting pronouncements from the IATF and the Tagaytay LGU on the issuance of a travel pass.

“As we have seen, the LGUs have their own guidelines that are sometimes different from the IATF. This makes it very confusing for those who want to travel,” Binay said.

DoT earlier announced that Boracay Island will accept visitors from all over the country starting October.

The agency said it will implement a “Test Before Travel” rule, which requires all visitors to have a negative result of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) 48 to 72 hours prior to traveling to Boracay Island.

Travelers aged below 21 and above 60 years old are also allowed to visit Boracay as long as they have no co-morbidity or worse health conditions.

“Traveling is still a major virus carrier, at dapat handa din ang LGU to handle the influx of tourists, i-rationalize at i-restrict ang carrying capacity, at dapat ready sila to strictly enforce health protocol compliance in all levels,” Binay pointed out.

She further stated that essential businesses should be certified by the DoT, DoH or IATF if these establishments have fully complied with in retro-fitting their operations to the new normal standards.