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With time spent at quarantine being cited as the primary reason most travelers from North America are putting off their travel plans to the Philippines this holiday season, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion is calling on the IATF to consider removing the facility-based quarantine requirement for arriving Filipinos who are fully vaccinated.
Under Concepcion’s proposal, travelers from the US and Canada are to be tested 48 hours before departure and then tested again once they arrive in the Philippines, either at their homes if they live within the Greater Manila area or at the quarantine hotel if they don’t have a place to stay. The proposed system will necessitate confirmed test schedules from the passengers.
“This already is such a substantial reduction from being tested only after the required five days spent at the quarantine hotel; they only have to spend one day at the hotel if they can’t do the testing at home,” said Concepcion.
The US and Canada are not included in the Philippines’s Green-listed countries. This means that even fully vaccinated arriving travelers from the US and Canada are currently required to undergo a COVID test after spending five days at a quarantine facility, while unvaccinated, partially vaccinated and those whose vaccination status are unclear are required to test after seven days in quarantine.
“A lot of our kababayans have been putting off their plans to go home and reunite with families this Christmas. We want to help them save money, so we are proposing an easier approach which is to test before departure and home quarantine upon arrival. They can just take the required RT-PCR tests at home,” Concepcion said.
Easing testing and quarantine restrictions for passengers coming from the US and Canada will not only provide peace of mind and allow travelers to save costs, but it will also result in activities that will help the economy further as the year ends.
“We can do this to give peace of mind to our returning Filipinos and their loved ones and the families they will go home to. As the Christmas spending starts, a lot of the country’s businesses will reap the benefits,” he said.
Concepcion said that he is now working with the country’s flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL), to align with testing laboratories and address the possible increase in demand for testing.
Concepcion had earlier organized a meeting that brought together the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, the Philippine Ambassador to the US, experts from the OCTA Research group, as well as representatives and officials from local airlines, including PAL.
During the meeting, several solutions were put forward to address the difficulty faced by arriving international passengers coming from North America. Among those solutions were the frontloading of the testing process to before passengers arrive in the country and expanding international gateways to ease the load off the NAIA terminals.
The solutions were seen to greatly ease the waiting time of arriving passengers at the NAIA, many of whom had already spent hours on the plane and must contend with spending even more time lining up for testing at the airport and time at a quarantine facility.
During the meeting, US Ambassador Jose Romualdez shared that 90 percent of US-based Filipinos have been vaccinated and that many are eager to fly to the Philippines but remain concerned about the quarantine protocols imposed on non-Green listed countries like the US.
Data from PAL, meanwhile, show that positivity rates among inbound passengers from North America have been relatively low. OCTA Research also observed that local transmissions account for almost all of the new COVID-19 cases in the country today, and that the fact that there have been no variants of concern since Delta, should be considered in assessing the risk involved in receiving travelers from North America.
Concepcion said that easing the process for returning Filipinos and other travelers would redound to benefits down the line for many MSMEs, many of whom are counting on the increased economic activity brought by holiday spending during the fourth quarter.