DOT chief: Metro Manila may resume tourism activities under modified GCQ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 1) – Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat revealed on Monday that as per her consultations with Metro Manila mayors, tourism activities in the area will resume if the region is placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

“We’ve been talking to the different local government units and they are more comfortable when NCR (National Capital Region) is already under the modified GCQ. So that’s when tourism will be allowed,” Puyat told CNN Philippines’ Rico Hizon.

Puyat said domestic tourism will be highly prioritized to help the 5.4 million workers in the tourism sector affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She also noted the country welcomed 8.3 million tourists last year.

“It is quite important for us to start slow but sure,” said Puyat.

She mentioned that most of the businessmen in the country’s tourism sector benefitted from the Small Business Wage Subsidy Program of the Department of Finance to help them cope with the economic impact of COVID-19.

“But still this is not enough. Currently now in the Senate, we are working with Senator Sonny Angara for a P10 billion stimulus program so that we can help our tourism stakeholders right now with zero interest loans,” Puyat explained.

In areas under MGCQ, tourism activities are allowed to resume up to 50 percent of its full capacity but are still expected to comply with the minimum health standards to avert the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Puyat highlighted that Boracay is one of the tourist spots that resumed its operations as Aklan province is now under MGCQ. However, she emphasized that only locals are allowed to swim in the world famous white-sand beach.

“They still have to observe physical distancing and there are certain parts that they are allowed to swim. And before they can swim, the temperature has to be taken,” she said.

Puyat hopes the national tourism industry can get back on its feet, projected to happen in mid-2021.

“It will definitely take time before we can get back to what our targets were. So, we’re still working out how this new normal will be,” she said.