Philippines to reopen ‘soon’ to vaccinated foreign tourists

November 19, 2021 - 1:29 PM
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A view of an empty beach is seen a day before the temporary closure of the holiday island Boracay in the Philippines April 25, 2018. (Reuters/Erik De Castro/File Photo)

MANILA — The Philippines has approved a plan to allow entry soon to foreign tourists vaccinated against COVID-19, its tourism ministry said on Friday, following moves by other Southeast Asian countries to relax travel curbs.

The coronavirus task force “approved in principle the entry of fully vaccinated tourists” from countries with low COVID-19 cases, the ministry said, adding that guidelines must be finalized.

The Philippines, known for its diving and thousands of tropical islands, saw an 83% drop in foreign arrivals last year, receiving nearly 1.4 million visitors, compared to nearly 8.2 million in 2019. Japan, South Korea and China are its biggest tourism markets.

It imposed some of Asia’s tightest entry requirements during the pandemic and has been one of the region’s worst-hit countries in terms of cases, deaths and economic losses. Just over a quarter of its population has been vaccinated.

Neighbors Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore  and Indonesia have also announced various degrees of reopening in recent weeks, after progress in vaccinating their local populations.

“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,” tourism minister, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, said in the statement.

The Philippines includes on its “green” list of approved countries Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and India, among others. —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa