Staring at the blank pages of your planner is probably not how you imagined 2020 would be. After months of restricted movement and recycled Instagram photos, you are now longing for that breath of fresh air to reset your mood and your outlook.
READ: How To Travel To The Province During Community Quarantine
Fortunately for you, the government has allowed tourism-related activities to help boost the Philippine economy. Unfortunately, the rules for traveling have become more stringent because of the pandemic that every nation is still fighting.
Here’s a guide that might come in handy when planning your next trip during the new normal.
What you need to know:
Provincial borders are still manned by police officers to check each traveler's documents. These checkpoints are still part of local governments' efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Days before your planned travel date, you must go to your local police station to secure a travel authority. Make sure that each one of you gets his or her own. This travel permit will act as your passport for your group to be allowed to enter another province. The paper should indicate your travel date, destination, and vehicle plate number.
When securing a travel permit, you might be asked to present a medical certificate that indicates you are fit to travel. Note that authorities consider medical certificates valid for three days. This means you have to get yourself checked three days before your intended travel time. Doing so earlier may cause inconvenience during your trip.
READ: What You Should Do When Exposed to a COVID-19 Patient?
Hotels and resorts usually ask for you to take a rapid test before getting to their place. This is conducted by taking a small sample of your blood from your fingers. Some have their own kits to check if their guests are reactive to the test. If that is the case, you might not be allowed to enter their facility and will be referred to a medical facility for a Reverse Transcription - Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test instead. RT-PCR tests confirm if you really are positive for COVID-19. This is done so by taking a swab sample through your mouth or your nose.
Based on the recommendations of local government officials, the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) sets what community quarantine category should a city or a province be placed under. Community quarantine implemented to control the movement of the residents depending on the area’s susceptibility to contracting the virus. The availability of transportation and other services depend on this.
The community quarantine categories are defined below which was taken from the latest IAT-EID issuance.
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• Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) - refers to the implementation of temporary measures imposing stringent limitations on movement and transportation of people, strict regulation of operating industries, provision of food and essential services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols.
• Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) - refers to the transition phase between ECQ and GCQ, when the following temporary measures are relaxed and become less necessary: stringent limits on movement and transportation of people, strict regulation of operating industries, provision of food and essential services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols.
• General Community Quarantine (GCQ) - refers to the implementation of temporary measures limiting movement and transportation, regulation of operating industries, and presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols.
READ: The GoBear Guide To Travelling During The Pandemic
• Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) - refers to the transition phase between GCQ and the New Normal, when the following temporary measures are relaxed and become less necessary: limiting movement and transportation, the regulation of operating industries, and the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols .
You should take note of these terms when planning your next trip. For instance, Davao City will be under general community quarantine until the end of the year and so are other places in Mindanao. Areas in stricter community quarantine measures do not allow tourism-related activities. You can be guided by the table below.
No hotels or accommodation establishments shall be allowed to operate, except those accommodating the following:
a. For guests who have existing booking accommodations for foreigners as of 17 March 2020 for Luzon and 01 May 2020 for other areas;
b. Guests who have existing long-term bookings;
c. Distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and stranded Filipinos or foreign nationals;
d. Repatriated OFWs in compliance with approved quarantine protocols;
e. Non-OFWs who may be required to undergo mandatory facility-based quarantine; and
f. Health care workers and other employees from exempted establishments under these Omnibus Guidelines and applicable Memoranda from the Executive Secretary.
GCQ Provided that accommodation establishments may operate only upon the issuance of a Certificate of Authority to operate by the DOT.
MGCQ Hotels and other accommodation establishments, only those accredited as provided by law and relevant DOT and DILG issuances may operate, and only upon issuance of a Certificate of Authority to operate by the DOT, which shall also determine the allowable operational capacity.
Note that these are still subject to changes as may be announced by the task force through resolutions that are uploaded here.
What to look for
You have been so diligent in following health protocols to avoid getting infected with COVID-19 Do not put everything to waste by getting too excited in your first travel after months of being cooped up at home. Check the website or social media page of your desired travel accommodation. Look for the safeguards they are imposing to protect their clients from the risk of acquiring the virus and other health hazards. Ask if the Department of Tourism already issued them a certificate of authority to operate. If so, this will give you the assurance that their health protocols and facilities have been inspected by authorities and deemed safe to accommodate clients.
READ: Sanitizing Practices To Avoid COVID-19
Once you have booked the facility, ask their customer representative to brief you, or send you a checklist of essentials to bring. Aside from face masks, they might require you to wear your face shields before going through their triage.
The threat of COVID-19 spreading still dictates how establishments are operating now. To maintain a safe physical distance, owners limit the number of clients they are serving at a time. Not all seats are occupied. Long queues are avoided.
To avoid the inconvenience of not having available rooms when you walk into a lodging facility, book the date of your desired stay. As part of their health protocol, some establishments even require this step. This will allow the management to inform their clients in advance of the requirements the latter will need to process for a hassle-free journey and stay.
Availability of public transport
Gone are the days when you can ride a bus to Sagada, Mountain Province on a whim. For now, you will have to make good with what is available. Because not all provincial buses have resumed their operations, the easiest option for you is to travel within your province or somewhere nearby. You won’t have to worry about taking care of a lot of travel documents, waiting for a bus ride, or delayed flights. You will also be your wallet a favor by not spending too much on fuel or fare.
You might also want to take advantage of the fact that the government is encouraging local tourism to get the economy started. When DOT started issuing certificates of authority to operate and public transportation is still not available, hotels and resorts came up with promos for residents. If you have been wanting to refresh your mood but are still afraid to travel far, try a staycation in a hotel near you. To enjoy a discounted price, others only require you to present a valid identification card that shows your address.
The purpose of your stay is to revel each passing hour without worrying about anything but taking good photos and remembering every moment. Ask the management if they serve food and what health protocols are they observing in the kitchen. Do they serve the food in individual packs? How are the utensils sanitized? You might feel safe if you bring your own utensils, which would be friendly to your health and to the environment.
Taking care of one less thing to worry about will go a long way when traveling. You have waited for this much-needed rest and relaxation for months. It’s time to bask in nothing but a good time and good company.