Fully vaccinated visitors from “green list” countries will soon be allowed to enter the Philippines, the Tourism Ministry announced on Nov. 19, following the lead of other Southeast Asian countries in relaxing travel restrictions for international leisure travellers.
In a statement, Tourism Minister Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the country’s coronavirus taskforce has “approved in principle” the proposed move, but the guidelines are still to be finalized.
The proposal to open leisure travel from “green countries,” or those classified as “low-risk countries” by the Department of Health, will be subject to “strict conditions,” Puyat added.
The Southeast Asian country has listed more than 40 countries and territories on its “green list,” including Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and India.
“Allowing tourists from green countries or territories that have the majority of its population vaccinated and with low infection rate, will greatly help in our recovery efforts increasing tourist arrivals and receipts among others,” Puyat said.
“This move will likewise aid in bolstering consumer confidence, which is a large contributor to our gross domestic product (GDP),” she added.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, tourism contributed 17.8 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2018, with the majority of its tourists coming from Japan, South Korea, and China.
Tourist arrivals in the Philippines plummeted 83 per cent last year, receiving nearly 1.4 million visitors, down from almost 8.2 million visitors in 2019.
“Our ASEAN neighbors like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia also did the same. We believe that it is also time for us to reopen our borders for inbound tourism as a way towards full recovery,” Puyat noted.
The government has eased restrictions in recent weeks as the infection rate remained stable, with 1,485 new coronavirus infections reported as of Nov. 19, bringing the total number of cases to 2,823,210.
More than a quarter of its 110 million population has been vaccinated.
The Philippine government had earlier eased the coronavirus curbs in the capital Manila to spur economic activity, allowing restaurants, churches and beauty salons to open at limited capacities.
Restaurants and beauty salons in the capital region were allowed to serve fully vaccinated customers at up to 10 per cent capacity, whilst churches were permitted to seat 10 per cent of their capacity for services.
“We should strive for total health and this can only be realized by carefully balancing our COVID-19 response by considering both the health of our people and the economic health of the nation,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said on Sep. 14.