Reopen tourism, test industry frontliners -- Cayetano

Alan Peter S. Cayetano

TIME to accelerate the expanded coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing for tourism frontliners.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has expressed full backing for the reopening of the tourism industry, a strategy for revitilizing the economy, which was badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) seeks to make domestic leisure travel a huge driver in rebooting the Philippine tourism.

A recent “Philippine Travel Survey” conducted by the Department of Tourism showed that 77 percent of respondents expressed their willingness to travel to local destinations once restrictions are lifted.

Cayetano supports the plan of the National Task Force against COVID-19 to expand virus testing and include non-medical frontliners who are not showing symptoms of the disease.

He also urged the DOT to work with the Task Force Test, Trace, Treat (T3) and its private sector partners to accelerate the plan to conduct COVID19-testing for the workers in key tourist destinations in the country.

“An aggressive and sustained COVID-19 testing of our tourism frontliners is necessary to facilitate faster recovery in the tourism industry and ensure safe working environment,” Cayetano said.

“With the increased testing capacity in the country, tourism workers can be included in the expanded testing program. This initiative can help build trust and confidence of the domestic tourists as we begin to reopen more economic activities in the next few months,” he added.

On July 2, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) issued Resolution No. 51, approving the National Task Force’s recommendation to further expand the COVID-19 testing strategy in an effort to maximize the 10 million test kits procured by the DOH and the Department of Budget (DBM).

“Now is the best time to assess and plan to rebuild our domestic tourism industry. Our tourism sector needs to adapt, innovate and manage the changing requirements of local tourists as we transition to new normal phase,” Caytano said.

Under the proposed Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines or ARISE Philippines Act, mass testing for COVID-19 shall be conducted in areas where higher possibility of transmission of COVID-10 may occur or have occurred. 

ARISE, which was approved on Third Reading by the House of Representatives before the First Regular Session adjourned, seeks to allocate P10 billion for 2020 and 2021 for the conduct of mass testing.  

Under the House-approved measure, mass testing refers to testing of all individuals by methods registered with and authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 infection, more particularly, but not limited to suspect cases, individuals with relevant history of travel or exposure or contact, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic;  healthcare workers with possible exposure, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic;  workers who are returning to work or to their place of employment; and  individuals with co-morbidities like old age, diabetes, hypertension and cancer; and  other high-risk population groups.