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Binay calls out Tourism Secretary over supposed COVID-19 health protocol violations

Senator Nancy Binay over the weekend called out Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat for supposedly violating COVID-19 health protocols amid the prevailing quarantine restrictions across the country.

In a statement, Binay said Instagram stories posted by Puyat show a series of health violations, as she accompanied the Belo family -- including minor Scarlet Snow -- in touring several sites in Bohol.

"Allowing a six-year-old child to go around without face mask and face shield in tour sites and public areas, and for a member of Cabinet not practicing basic health protocols is flat out unacceptable," the senator said.

One of Puyat's Instagram stories showed the secretary and Scarlet Snow at the South Farm in Panglao, Bohol, without face masks. It is unclear if they only removed the masks for photo purposes.

The government earlier this month allowed leisure trips from the NCR Plus -- Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan -- to areas under a general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ regardless of age.

Face masks continue to be mandatory, along with face shields in public areas.

Puyat has been pushing for a gradual reopening of tourism facilities as quarantine restrictions are eased, aiming to boost recovery following the lockdowns that hurt the sector.

"I understand fully the concern of Sec. Berna in helping the industry. Talagang dapang-dapa na ang ating industriya ng turismo, but what everyone saw in her IG post is a disturbing lapse of judgment that showcased a series of public health and IATF violations," said Binay.

"As a government executive, 'yung expectation ay pina-practice simpleng 'Apat Dapat', pero 'yung ginagawa 'yung mga hindi dapat," she added.

Apat Dapat refers to air circulation, ventilation, physical distancing, wearing of face masks and face shields, and limiting time interaction to 30 minutes or less.

"Kapag laging ganito, nalulusawsaw ang mensahe na dapat maging mas vigilant tayo ngayon dahil maraming mas fatal na COVID variants na ang nasa Pilipinas," said Binay.

"Naha-highlight din 'yung unfair application ng IATF rules -- maluwag tayo doon sa mga may sinasabi sa lipunan, pero kinakaladkad natin 'yung mga maliliit at walang-wala," she added.

Binay likewise pointed out that Puyat and the Belo family traveled to several tour sites, effectively breaking the "point-to-point" policy.

However, the Department of Tourism (DOT) explained to GMA News that the Puyat and Belo visit was part of a campaign for domestic tourism and was in coordination with the local government units.

"The Secretary wishes to assure the public that everyone in the visit underwent RT-PCR testing and complied with all the travel requirements of the host province," the DOT said in a statement sent via mobile message.

The statement likewise noted that the inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases (IATF-EID) allowed all ages to travel point-to-point to tourist destinations provided that they had been RT-PCR tested.

"The said campaign was made consistent with current protocols and properly coordinated with the local government units," it read.

GMA News had also sought comment from the Belo family via their social media accounts, but they had not responded as of posting time.

The Philippines on Sunday reported 7,302 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to bring the total to 1,315,639. This includes 59,685 active cases; 1,232,986 recoveries; and 22,788 deaths. — DVM, GMA News