THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is throwing its support behind proposals to implement a globally recognized Covid-19 passport to help restore trust and confidence in the travel and tourism sector.

“The DOT supports the suggestion of Mr. Lance Gokongwei to come up with a global Covid-19 passport to facilitate international cross border travel with stringent health and safety measures in place,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, during the yearend tourism stakeholders forum hosted by budget airline Cebu Pacific.

“The DOT recognizes that a Covid-19 passport is vital to reviving international travel as it will restore the trust and confidence of people to travel to other countries while assuring receiving countries that their inbound tourists have been vaccinated,” Puyat added.

On Monday, Dec. 7, Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei said the proposed Covid-19 passport is essential as the world reopens international travel vis-a-vis the different vaccines that will be available in the coming year.

He said the implementation could be done through government-to-government agreements.

DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr., during the panel discussion, said there have already been initial discussions about the proposed Covid-19 passport and the agency is also looking at various options and exploring ways for tourists to move around easily, safely and conveniently.

Moreover, Puyat said the discovery of the three vaccines is a significant progress in the world’s fight against Covid-19, but until these are made available to everyone, “the international travel will most likely be restricted to select zones between countries that have little to no cases of infection.”

“Because we have no control over factors affecting the Covid-19 situation worldwide, we have focused our attention on restarting domestic tourism and creating safe travel zones within our country,” the tourism chief said.

Vaccination roadmap

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the roadmap for the implementation of a vaccination program Covid-19. Priority will be given to the poor and indigent and frontliners (healthcare workers, soldiers, policemen, servicemen, essential services).

Vaccine czar and National Task Force against Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez said a vaccine will most likely be available in the Philippines in a worst-case scenario by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

But he was hopeful that the Philippines could access 10 to 15 million doses in the second quarter of 2021, particularly in May, June or July.

He said that among the pharmaceutical companies that are in talks with the Philippines, Astra Zeneca has offered the lowest price at US$5 per dose.

Reopened destinations

Meanwhile, after a series of careful planning and collaboration, Puyat said some destinations have safely and sustainably reopened their destinations to tourists in the last quarter of 2020. Included in the initial batch were Boracay, Baguio, El Nido, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Lapu-Lapu City and most recently Coron and Siargao.

She said more will be reopened in the coming weeks, keeping the sector’s momentum as it approaches 2021.

The DOT is also looking forward to the creation of travel bubbles with nearby countries. (KOC)