Metro Manila Mayors Vote to Loosen More Restrictions
There are tens of thousands of tourists, if not millions, wanting to visit the Philippines. Many of them want to wiggle their toes in the sandy white beaches of Boracay. In addition, there are foreigners who desire to visit their loved ones. Consequently, will all foreign tourists be welcome in the Philippines in 2021? Well, True Believers, the Department of Tourism is advocating the return of tourists.
Furthermore, Metro Manila mayors are wanting to loosen more restrictions on March 1, 2021. The Secretary of the Department of Education is calling for the return of face-to-face classrooms. In addition, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has recommended placing the entire Philippines under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most lenient quarantine status, next month.
These are extremely positive developments for a return to some semblance of normalcy. In fact, there are indications that all of the Philippines will be under the MGCQ in March.
FOREIGN TOURISTS WELCOME IN PHILIPPINES 2021?
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she hopes that foreign arrivals will be allowed after the government also allowed visiting overseas Filipinos or balikbayans this month.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) said it is aiming to open the country to foreign tourists within the year, especially those who have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Hoping that this year, especially those vaccinated, we will be able to open up to other countries, and not only confined to balikbayans,” Puyat said.
The less strict modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) in March will allow freer travel to boost domestic tourism. Tourist destinations that are already open to the public include Baguio, Bohol, Boracay, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and El Nido in Palawan.
Economic Council Advocates Shift to MGCQ
“We need to shift as soon as possible to MGCQ for the entire Philippines. We hope starting March 1, 2021, so we can address the high percentage of Filipinos who are experiencing hunger,” NEDA director general Karl Chua said.
“So given progress on the health side and no spike in COVID-19 cases from the reopening of the economy last October and the yearend holiday, our recommendation is … we further open the economy to MGCQ for the entire Philippines, especially the NCR (National Capital Region),” he said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte is still studying the NEDA recommendation.
Citing a study by the NEDA, Roque said that while the number of COVID-19 infections has reached more than 550,000, the number of Filipinos who are experiencing hunger has risen by 23.7 million. The number of poor people has increased by 4.5 million while that of jobless individuals has risen by more than two million, he added.
“Since more people are suffering because of non-COVID-related activities… it’s about time that we save our countrymen from hunger and poverty,” he said.
In the Philippines, the IATF, Inter Agency Task Force, makes recommendations on the lifting of pandemic restrictions. They report their findings to President Duterte who has the final say.
The vaccination program for the coronavirus in the Philippines is scheduled to begin later this month.
Meanwhile, in a close 9-8 vote, Metro Manila mayors agreed that their cities in the metro area should also be under the more lenient MGCQ. It’s been almost a year since Manila has been under a lockdown.
Glimmers of hope and shards of sanity finally begin to surface and ripple across the landscape of the 7,500 islands of the Philippines.
With reporting from ABS CBN NEWS and PhilStar.com