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Philippines looking to open borders to all foreign tourists by April

The Philippines is looking at the possibility of opening its borders to all foreign tourists by April, with the country only currently accepting travelers from visa-free countries.

According to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is optimistic that the government will approve the proposal to accept foreign tourists from all countries by next month.

“So far we’ve been doing well so we hope to open to all countries by April,” she said in an interview on ANC on Thursday.

The Philippines started to accept tourists from 157 visa-free countries last month and has since welcomed 73,178 tourist arrivals from February 10 to March 8, which was “surprising” given that arrivals were initially expected to come in June.

“The reason why we started with visa-free countries was this was also the recommendation of the [Department of Foreign Affairs]. They wanted to say ‘yung paunti-unti muna [gradually],” Puyat said.

“They told us that they are ready to accept also, kasi [because] they have to open the consular services all over the world so we hope that it will be approved and we will be able to accept by April,” she continued.

Most of the tourists so far have been coming from the United States, Canada, Korea, Australia, Japan, Germany, and Vietnam.

Foreign tourists from visa-free countries are required to present a negative COVDI-19 RT-PCR test result taken 48 hours before their trip, along with their proof of vaccination for them to be allowed entry to the Philippines.

Puyat said the government is also looking at easing the requirements and allowing a negative result of the antigen test taken 24 hours before the trip, noting that those who already contracted COVID-19 could test positive in the RT-PCR for up to three months.

She noted that the industry is still driven mainly by domestic tourism, which recorded 110 million trips in 2019 versus the 8.26 million recorded for foreign arrivals.

“I think the reopening to foreign tourists more of shows that we are slowly but surely going back to normal,” she said. — RSJ, GMA News