Going on a roadtrip or booking a local flight together used to be the highlight of every adventure-seeking barkada before the pandemic. With the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country, however, as well as the threat of new variants, the top priority at the moment is to prevent its spread while waiting for the vaccine rollout.
"Travel now is a responsibility," says Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, and we couldn't agree more.
While Filipinos have patiently been waiting to travel again, the DOT Secretary admits making this possible for Filipino travelers isn't their only priority. Another reason why the DOT is hard at work in making sure tourist spots around the country are safe for visits again: to give jobs back to the locals.
But the secretary says this doesn't mean they must undermine the safety of tourists and locals alike. "We have to balance giving back jobs with health and safety protocols," adds Secretary Puyat in an exclusive conversation during the Summit Sandwich Sessions.
When it's safer to take local trips again, the DOT Secretary shared a few recommendations for the younger crowd hoping to explore the country.
Here are the must-visit spots for Gen Z around the Philippines, according to the DOT Secretary:
At the top of the secretary's list is a favorite destination in Palawan. "Now is the best time to go because there's no over-tourism. It's like you're visiting the tourist destination when it wasn't yet popular," shares Secretary Puyat. "You can go diving, go to the lagoon, go biking. There's so much to do in El Nido."
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Requirements to enter El Nido for non-residents:
- QR-coded Tourist ID (QT-ID) issued through elnidotourism.ph
- Negative RT-PCR test result done by DOH-accredited laboratories 72 hours prior to travel
- A reservation in any accommodation with DOT's Certificate of Authority to Operate
- A travel itinerary made through an accredited travel agency in El Nido
Health and safety protocols to follow while in El Nido:
- Participate in health and sanitation checks during every entry and exit
- Bring your own food and drinks during island activities. Single-use plastics are not allowed.
- Make sure you always bring with you your ETDF ticket and QT-ID.
- Maintain a 3-meter physical distance from other tourists offboat.
Visit El Nido Tourism's website for more details.
If you're more of a roadtrip fan, the DOT Secretary recommends a trip to Baguio. "If you live in Quezon City, you're there in 3 hours because of the new roads," she points out.
"They can go horse back riding or you can just walk around the Burnham Park. Right now walking around the park is such a privilege." Secretary Puyat also notes that good food is abundant in Baguio in case a food trip is in your itinerary.
Requirements to enter Baguio for non-residents:
- Register at Baguio City Tourism's website before your visit
- COVID-19 testing and travel authority are NO longer required
- Mandatory quarantine is also NO longer required except for symptomatic visitors
- Tourists are still required to undergo triage
- Valid government ID
Another recommendation from Secretary Puyat is Bohol, which is home to must-see gems like the tarsiers, Loboc River, Chocolate Hills. They also boast of beaches and visitors can also enjoy a day of diving in the area.
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Requirements to enter Bohol for non-residents:
- Negative RT-PCR test result accomplished not earlier than 72 hours before date of travel
- Pre-register at tourism.bohol.gov.ph (expect a confirmation e-mail)
- Book your stay in advance at any accredited accommodation
Health and safety protocols to follow while in Bohol:
- Adhere to health and safety protocols set in place
- Only pre-arranged travel outside of the hotel are allowed and these must be done through DOT-accredited travel agencies
- Stopovers between travel from the airport to the hotel are not allowed
- Tourists staying for more than six days must undergo a repeat RT-PCR test on the fifth day of stay
Visit Bohol Tourism's website for more details.