MANILA — The Department of Tourism (DOT) said on January 28, the Philippines’ lifting of the quarantine policy for fully-vaccinated international travelers from countries with visa-free entry to the Philippines and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) will restore lost jobs and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We at the DOT are very thankful to our partners in the IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) for approving our proposal to allow the entry of foreign leisure travelers. The Department sees this as a welcome development that will contribute significantly to job restoration, primarily in Tourism-dependent communities, and in the re-opening of businesses that have earlier shut down during the pandemic,’’ Tourism Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

“With years of coordination between national agencies, industry stakeholders, and the various local government units (LGUs) to prepare our destinations for Tourism in the new normal, we are confident that we will be able to keep pace with our ASEAN neighbors who have already made similar strides to re-open to foreign tourists,” she added.

From February 10, the Philippines will allow the entry of fully-vaccinated international tourists from visa-free countries if they can present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours before they depart from the country of origin.

In a press briefing last Friday, Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said the new protocols under IATF Resolution number 159 were based on the recommendations of the Task Force on COVID-19 New Variants as well as the sub-technical working group on data analytics.

Nograles said foreign travelers must present proofs of COVID-19 vaccination such as the World Health Organization International Certificates of Vaccination and Prophylaxis, VaxCertPH, or national/state digital certificates from foreign governments which have accepted VaxCertPH under a reciprocal arrangement, unless otherwise permitted by the IATF.

Under the resolution, fully-vaccinated foreign tourists must self-monitor for any sign or symptom of COVID-19 for seven days with the first date being the date of arrival. Facility-based quarantine is no longer mandatory upon arrival.

“(They) shall be required to report to the local government unit of destination upon the manifestation of symptoms, if any,” Nograles said.

Foreign tourists must also have a passport valid for at least six months at the time of arrival with outbound tickets to their country of origin or the next country of destination.

In a report by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), a total of 157 countries including some top tourist markets such as South Korea, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States and Germany enjoy visa-free entry privileges before the pandemic.

Children below 18 years old are exempted from the full inoculation requirement before boarding.

In a separate announcement, the IATF suspended the green, yellow and red classification for countries beginning February 1. Also, ROFs will no longer be required to undergo quarantine as long as they can present a negative result of an RT-PCR test taken 48 hours before departure from the point of origin.

Previously, the Philippines halted the re-opening of the borders to fully-vaccinated tourists from green list countries, territories, jurisdictions last December 1, due to the threat of the Omicron variant.

In another report by ONE News, Romulo-Puyat on January 29, said the DOT convinced local governments hosting tourist spots to be lenient with foreign tourists in enforcing health and safety measures against COVID-19 when the country reopened on February 10.

“It is still up to them but we hope they also make it easier for foreigners to travel,” Romulo-Puyat said.

Romulo-Puyat said the DOT and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will discuss anti-COVID-19 measures on foreigners with local government units (LGUs).

“We are also aware that there is no room for complacency given the unpredictability of the virus. We will closely monitor the situation and ensure that health and safety protocols are strictly implemented in all Tourism establishments,” Romulo-Puyat said.

Some LGUs like in Boracay and Baguio require local tourists, including fully-vaccinated ones, to show negative COVID-19 test results following the Omicron surge after the holiday season.

“I don’t think foreign leisure travelers will troop to the country by February 10. It will still take time. It may take months, maybe May or June, because they will still have to wait for the itinerary,” Romulo-Puyat said, noting the DOT and the Department of Foreign Affairs are discussing possible travel bubbles with other countries.

“We have continuously talked to different countries (about) travel bubbles. If it is possible for it to be mutual, they can come here without quarantine, and our citizens can go to their countries without quarantine,” she said.