Garcia backs effort to open Cebu to foreign tourists

BETTER DAYS AHEAD. In this SunStar Cebu file foto, local and foreign tourists line up at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) Terminal 2 just before boarding their flights. Governor Gwendolyn Garcia wants to bring back those days and says she supports the plan of Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan to reopen Mactan to foreign tourists to jumpstart Cebu’s Covid-ravaged tourism industry. / Sunstar file

CEBU Governor Gwendolyn Garcia supports Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan’s effort to boost tourism by allowing foreign tourists who had been vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the city.

“I am one with Mayor Ahong Chan because his tourism sector is really severely affected,” said Garcia.

“I am willing to sit down with him. With this, I am insisting on that section 105 (of the Local Government Code). This now allows us to consider the possibility of accepting foreign tourists,” said Garcia.

Chan earlier wrote Health Secretary Francisco Duque III requesting to allow the entry of foreign tourists to revive Lapu-Lapu City’s economy as it was a prime tourist destination in the country.

The mayor cited the need to strike a balance between economy, on one side, and health and safety on the other.

Duque has yet to respond to Chan’s letter.

Chan’s plan to accept inoculated foreign tourists into Lapu-Lapu City is a step ahead of the recently announced Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Resolution 113, which reopened the country’s borders to certain foreign nationals starting May 1, 2021 as part of easing travel restrictions.

Under IATF Resolution 113, foreigners who are qualified to enter the country must also take coronavirus testing at the quarantine hotel/facility on the sixth day from their date of arrival.

However, Chan told reporters in a press conference on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 that foreign tourists can come to Lapu-Lapu City as long as they have been fully vaccinated and have tested negative in an RT-PCR test at least 72 hours before their flight.

He said if the vaccinated foreign national has not undergone a Covid test prior to his arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport

(MCIA), the guest will be tested here.

“That’s our stand for Lapu-Lapu,” said Chan adding that the tourists must also adhere to minimum health protocols.

Chan also shares the Governor’s stand on testing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) upon arrival at the MCIA and not on the sixth day upon arrival as insisted by health advisers of the IATF for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease.

“Same with Gov. Gwen (Garcia) those Filipino workers living abroad who want to go home, visit their families and have their vacation here, once tested negative they can go home,” the mayor said.

When asked by reporters about the new Covid strain that will initially test negative and will appear only after five days, the mayor said, “naka-bubble man ni sila (inside hotels) especially kung turista (They will be in a bubble especially if tourists).”

He said this has been discussed in a meeting with hotels, resorts and other stakeholders weeks ago.

Tourism has been the revenue machine for Lapu-Lapu City, as well as Cebu Province.

Chan sees the pressing need to bring back jobs to his constituents.

“The people are hungry and we need to give them food,” said Chan as many people in the city have lost their jobs to the pandemic.

‘Tourism bubble’

Meanwhile, Garcia eyes to establish a “tourism bubble” where foreign tourists are allowed to enter the province but subject to certain health protocols.

“If we are able to test OFWs or returning Filipinos upon arrival and then let them go transient before the results come out, so why can’t we do the same for other countries that have also been able to manage their Covid cases? (Those) that have an established Covid management system,” asked Garcia.

Garcia said it is time for the people to acquire a different mindset as Covid-19 cases may increase yet gradually decrease.

She said people should worry if hospital beds for Covid cases will no longer be available and if the medical workforce becomes insufficient.

Garcia said Cebu Province has enough isolation facilities and has set in place home quarantine protocols and contact tracing mechanisms. (with PR)


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