The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the tourism industries of countries around the world, especially those who are heavily reliant on foreign arrivals.
One of the countries that was hit the hardest in Southeast Asia was the Philippines, an island nation that delights its visitors with rich natural biodiversity, heritage towns, rainforests, and world-class diving. After COVID-19 grew through the region, the Philippines had to make the difficult decision to shut its borders to further prevent the spread of the virus.
However, almost two years later, the Philippines are starting to emerge from the effects of the pandemic and are looking to potentially reopen.
Will travel to the Philippines from Malaysia be a possibility soon? We certainly hope so.
What Is The Situation Like Right Now?
Currently, entry to the Philippines remains heavily restricted except for citizens and permanent residents, spouses, and those traveling for essential reasons.
Similar to other countries, the Philippines government has a traffic light system that divides countries into green, yellow, or red lists. Currently, there are more than 40 countries on the ‘green list,’ including India, Japan, Oman, Pakistan, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Nationals who fall under the green list are not required to undergo the mandatory 14 day quarantine or isolation. However, they will still need to self-monitor for 14 days after entry and report any symptoms (if necessary).
At the moment, there are only two countries who are on the Philippines’ red list: the Faroe Islands and The Netherlands. Individuals from these countries are not allowed to enter the Philippines unless they are part of a government-initiated repatriation flight.
All other countries not mentioned under the green or the red list are automatically deferred to the yellow list. Fully vaccinated travelers from yellow list countries will need to quarantine for 10 days. However, travelers have the option to quarantine at a government facility for the first five days, take a PCR test to ‘test out’ with a negative result, and finish their quarantine at home.
The Philippines: Getting Ready To Reopen
Earlier this month, the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) stated that it is working on a new plan to welcome back foreign travelers. The campaign, which is aptly-titled “More Fun Awaits,” will highlight the country’s commitment to health and safety alongside its most popular tourist attractions.
As the website notes, We can’t wait to welcome you again… We’re preparing every day and are waiting for your safe return.”
Under the ‘new normal,’ the Philippines is aiming to position itself as a safe tourist destination amid the pandemic.
About 70 percent of the tourism workforce is fully vaccinated, with the country vowing to have all workers inoculated by the end of the year. Many popular tourism areas like Baguio, Davao Region, and San Vicente (Palawan) have already hit a 100 percent vaccination rate, with Boracay joining them soon.
As the DOT notes, it is “more than ready to provide visitors a safe and pleasant experience.”
However, this safe experience depends on the success of vaccination drives.
Alfred Reyes, General Manager at bai Hotel Cebu, reaffirmed this notion: “Restarting the industry relies on the success of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign … Vaccination is one of the key factors that can help revive both domestic and international tourism,” he noted.
A Multi-Step Reopening Process
The Philippines has already started to reopen popular tourist destinations to domestic tourism.
At the moment, local Filipinos can enjoy a holiday at some of the country’s most popular resorts and destinations, including Baguio, the ‘city of pines’ and colorful houses; Batangas’ famous Taal Lake; Boracay Island; Cebu City; and tropical getaways like Coron and El Nido in Palawan.
The Department of Tourism will be monitoring the success of this pilot program before opening up the country for foreign visitors.
Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, the Secretary of Tourism, recently met with the government to discuss setting up ‘green lanes’ to permit fully vaccinated visitors to enter the country.
Talks are currently underway with South Korea, whose citizens may be the first to test out this ‘travel bubble.’
South Korea is a vital tourism partner for the Philippines for many reasons. However, perhaps the most important is that South Korean travelers were the most common visitors to the island nation, with nearly 2 million citizens visiting in 2019. In comparison, the Philippines received a total of 8.2 million foreign visitors in that year.
If the proposed travel lane is approved, it would be the first travel arrangement of its kind for the Philippines since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the new travel lane system, foreign tourists will need to be fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine in order to enter the country. It is also rumored that travelers will need to produce a negative PCR test result 72 hours before their departure.
Although discussions are still in progress, this is welcoming news for tourists who want to visit their favorite destinations in the Philippines.