Senate Tourism panel chair urges Filipinos travelers to prioritize local destinations

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 08 2020 06:22 PM

Burnham Park during the Baguio City Lockdown on April 15, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Sen. Nancy Binay on Wednesday urged Filipino travelers to prioritize visiting local tourist destinations after the government lifted the ban on non-essential travel.

The tourism industry may be the last to recover from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis so Filipinos should support their own, said Binay, who chairs the Senate Committee on Tourism.

"Panawagan ko na din sa ating mga kababayan, imbis na tangkilikin 'yung turismo sa ibang bansa, let's go local first," she said in an online press conference.

(I am urging our countrymen, instead of patronizing tourism in other countries, let's go local first.)

"Siguro ganun yung kailangan nating gawing kampaniya -
unahin muna natin yung sarili natin," she added, noting that thousands of Filipinos working in the tourism sector have been struggling financially due to the lack of visitors during the COVID-19-related lockdown.

(I think that should be our campaign - to prioritize our own.)

Establishments in areas that have yet to open can use the tourism lull to improve their facilities or retrain their staff, Binay said.

"Babalikan natin yung nangyari sa Boracay. Habang sarado yung Boracay, nagkaroon ng re-training, nag-upgrade ng facilities," the senator said, referring to Boracay's rehabilitation shutdown in 2018.

(We go back to what happened in Boracay. While Boracay was closed to tourists, there was a re-training and facilities were upgraded.)

"Baka ito 'yung pagkakataon na gawin 'yan para 'pag ready na ang mga turista natin, makikita nila na safe at ready na na tumanggap ng mga bisita," she said.

(Maybe this is the time to do those things so that when tourists are ready to travel, they will see that the establishments are safe and ready to cater to visitors.)

Binay said there is nothing wrong though if some Filipinos would still opt to travel abroad, provided that they would follow strict quarantine protocol upon returning to the country.

"At the moment, ang mahalaga ay hindi kumalat 'yung virus," she said.

Filipinos are not expected to be encouraged to travel despite the easing of restrictions, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

"I can see no problem with the lifting of the suspension on non-essential travel by Filipinos," Lacson said in a statement.

"However, I do not see this encouraging Filipinos to travel. Who would be encouraged to travel in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?" he said.

The Philippines eased travel restrictions on Tuesday, nearly four months since it was imposed as part of quarantine measures in the country to curb the spread of the COVID-19.

Officials earlier said that domestic travel is expected to help restart the Philippine tourism industry, which accounts for about 12 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has been eyeing to reopen destinations like El Nido in Palawan to select tourists, provided that they would show documents they are not infected with COVID-19.

The DOT also said it is considering to open "travel bubbles" with COVID-19-free countries to help spur economic activity in the Philippines.

As of July 5, at least 30 countries have allowed the entry of Filipino tourists provided they abide by COVID-19 policies, including seeking health approval permits from authorities in some nations.

Among these countries are Singapore, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Turkey, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States, according to data from the Department of Foreign Affairs.