The government has eased COVID-related restrictions on domestic travel by allowing leisurely trips from NCR Plus to areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ regardless of age from June 1 to 15.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said such travel is allowed provided that all the travelers test negative for COVID-19 and will comply with the local government guidelines.
Roque, however, clarified that such eased travel requirements will only apply to point-to-point travel.
NCR Plus covers Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna.
Likewise, Roque said that the government has also allowed outdoor non-contact sports, 30% operating capacity for venue meetings or conferences, 40% operating capacity for personal care services, and 30% outdoor tourist attractions for areas under GCQ with heightened restrictions, including Metro Manila.
Before this, the government only allowed staycations and point-to-point air travel in the NCR Plus area.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has earlier said the Department of Tourism (DOT) had asked the IATF to approve their recommendation to allow travels outside the NCR Plus as there were now fewer COVID-19 cases in the area.
Puyat said allowing travels outside the NCR Plus, as long as the travelers are tested, would help the country recover from the lost income from the lockdowns imposed during the Holy Week and the summer season.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases or IATF, the government's policy-making body in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, has allowed resorts in GCQ areas to operate at 30% capacity starting June 1.
Accommodation establishments that would be allowed to operate under these conditions include the hundreds of resorts in Pansol, Laguna, that have so far earned next to nothing in this year's peak season.
Travel still up for LGU approval
In an interview with Super Radyo dzBB Tuesday, Puyat said leisure travel will still be up to local government units (LGUs) despite the IATF approval.
"IATF allowed traveling to tourist destinations provided that LGUs approved it because some LGUs are hesitant to open for tourism," Puyat said in Filipino, reacting to the government's recent approval to ease age restrictions for leisure travel.
Baler, the coastal capital of Aurora province, has yet to allow domestic tourists, Puyat said. Meanwhile, the Tourism secretary bared that Zambales LGU recently allowed entry of domestic tourists.
"A lot of LGUs are still not open for tourism but we respect their decision," Puyat said, in Filipino.
She also reminded that tourism sites in NCR Plus bubble must only accommodate 30% capacity because these areas are still under general community quarantine.
On the other hand, the tourism chief reminded that LGUs only accept results from RT/PCR test, the gold standard for detecting novel coronavirus, causative agent of COVID-19.
RT/PCR exemption for vaccinated seniors?
On the proposal to exempt fully vaccinated senior citizens from RT/PCR requirements, Puyat said the government is still looking into it as there is still no way to authenticate vaccination.
"This is being talked about because for now, we have no way to determine if a vaccination is authentic. RT/PCR test results can be falsified. When we get vaccinated, we only receive a piece of paper," she said, in a mix of Filipino and English.
"IATF and TWG are still figuring out how to authenticate those who are fully vaccinated," Puyat added.—KBK/AOL, GMA News