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Fri. May 14th, 2021

The post of Tourism Secretary in the Philippines has to be a thankless job. The Philippines has one of the longest and strictest pandemic lockdowns on the planet. Metro Manila has reverted to strict lockdowns once again. How can you promote that?

Will Tourists be Allowed Back into the Philippines in 2021?

Moreover, most foreigners cannot even enter the Philippines in the first place.

The Philippine government has suspended the entry of all foreign nationals through April 30, 2021. In addition, the number of inbound international passengers has been limited to 1,500 per day.[i]

The following individuals are exempt from the entry ban provided they have a valid visa at the time of entry:

  • Diplomats and members of international organizations, and their dependents, provided they hold a valid 9(e) visa or 47(a) (2) visa.
  • Foreigners involved in medical repatriation duly endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
  • Foreign seafarers under the “Green Lanes” program for crew change, if they hold a 9(c) crew list visa.
  • Foreign parent/s, spouses, and children of Filipino citizens traveling with the Filipino citizen.
  • Emergency, humanitarian, and other analogous cases approved by the Chairperson of the NTF COVID-19 or his duly authorized representative.
  • Foreign nationals with valid entry exemption documents duly issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) prior to March 22, 2021.

United States Issues Level 4 Alert Regarding Travel to PH

In addition, the US State Department has issued a “Level 4” alert for the Philippines. Why? Because of the surge of COVID-19 cases here. The United States is not stopping anyone from visiting the Philippines. It is only advising them not to travel to the PH at this time.

Level 4 is the highest travel alert of the State Department. Frankly, the situation looks like hell with everyone out for lunch. Nevertheless, will tourists be allowed back into the Philippines in 2021?

Tourism Secretary is an Optimist

First, you have to admire the Philippines Department of Tourism’s chief “spin doctor,” Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. She could sell firewood to a lumberjack. The DOT Secretary is confident that the Philippines vaccination program will contain the spread of the coronavirus in the archipelago.

Ms. Romulo-Puyat views travel advisories issued by different governments as “transient.”

However, with all due respect to the Secretary, what “vaccination program”?

The Sorry State of the Philippines’ Vaccination Program

The Philippines didn’t begin their vaccination program until March 1, 2021. They were using 600,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine, Sinovac, donated by the Chinese government. The vaccine only has about a 50 percent efficacy rating.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, that 1,562,563 vaccine doses have been dispensed already in the Philippines. That’s less than 0.2% of the population of the Philippines.

COVID-19 Cases Surge in the Philippines

COVID-19 cases in the Philippines have been rising at an alarming rate. Recorded thus far in 2021 are over 970, 000 cases. That’s already more than the total 900,00 plus cases for 2020.

The Philippines is currently reporting about 10,000 new infections on average each day. Before March 2021, the country was only averaging around 1,500 daily cases.

Source: WorldoMeters

Nearly 200,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in the Philippines on June 15. 20 million doses should be here by the end of 2021.

Retired Army General Carlito Galvez Jr. is the Vaccine Czar of the Philippines. Galvez claims that 70 percent of the population will receive vaccinations by the end of the year, thereby reaching “herd immunity.”

Frankly, that’s about as realistic as the Philippines opening their doors to foreign tourists by the end of the year.

COVID-19 Passports to be Required?

In January 2021, the Philippine Department of Health, DOH, said it would issue “vaccine passports” to all Filipinos who will receive the vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19.)

Thus, DOH officials believe a vaccine passport will be part of protocols for border control in different countries.

Consequently, don’t be surprised if the Philippine government will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination from foreigners once travel opens up in the Philippines.

Will Tourists be Allowed Back into the Philippines in 2021?

I doubt it.

Perhaps, the government will require a COVID-19 vaccine passport. It’s difficult to say. Consequently, conflicting statements by Philippine government agencies only add to the chaos and confusion.

While the Department of Tourism has a “fervent hope” that the situation will improve sooner than anticipated” I don’t share that optimistic outlook.

When will families and friends “get the opportunity to travel safely back to the beautiful islands of the Philippines?”

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in February 2021 said that the tourism department is hopeful that the country would reopen to foreign tourists this year.[ii]

Despite this, Puyat said there is still no definite date for this.

“It’s hard to give a timeline,” Puyat said

Moreover, the DOT Secretary made that statement months before the current COVID-19 surge.

[i] Source US Embassy in the Philippines

[ii] Source PhilStar.com

By The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 21 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Malinois called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people over the years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

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