Tourism dept. backs DILG move to streamline travel requirements

Robie de Guzman   •   February 23, 2021   •   697

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Tourism (DOT) has expressed its support for the move of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to streamline the travel procedures and requirements being imposed by local government units (LGU).

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said her department has long been advocating for the “simplification of travel requirement as this is critical in making domestic tourism work.”

Citing a survey conducted from November 28 to December 30, 2020, Puyat said that 81 percent of respondents consider the varying LGU requirements as the factor that makes travel most inconvenient.

The survey was conducted by the DOT in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management – Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, and Guide to the Philippines.

Among the common travel requirements being imposed by the LGUs are the medical certificate, other types of pre-travel or test-on-arrival COVID tests and quarantine.  

At the destinations, some rules that need to be standardized are those that relate to RT-PCR for children/infant, rooming or capacity limits and age restrictions vis-à-vis inter- and intra-regional movement of domestic tourists, the DOT said.

“Streamlining entry requirements will make travelling in the new normal more convenient while also protecting the public’s safety and well-being,” Puyat said.

“Furthermore, this will also help in preventing the entry of those who falsify documents by standardizing validation protocols,” she added.

The DILG earlier expressed support for proposals to place the entire country under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) classification to “harmonize” regulations being implemented by LGUs.

DILG spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said there is a need to remove “redundancies” and impose less stringent requirements for domestic tourist travel, while managing health risks at the same time.

He, however, emphasized that the less restrictive quarantine classification would not mean abandoning health protocols but simply streamlining regulations to bring back jobs and revive the economy battered by the pandemic.

The DILG said works on streamlining regulations for domestic travel are ongoing to encourage tourism and revive the sector, as well as the country’s economy in general.

Filipino seafarers now part of gov’t COVID-19 vaccination priority group – DOTr

Robie de Guzman   •   April 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino seafarers have moved up in the country’s list of priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced.

The DOTr said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has approved its recommendation to include Filipino sailors in the priority recipients as their work is considered crucial in keeping the economy afloat.

“This is a very good development for our maritime industry champions— our seafarers. Now, our Filipino seafarers will be given priority to be vaccinated,” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement.

“Paulit-ulit ko pong inilalarawan ang ating maritime workforce bilang mga silent workers ng bayan. They work silently, yet their contribution is as crucial as keeping the economy thriving. Not only are they frontliners, but they are undoubtedly HEROES, too,” he added.

From under B3 (other essential workers) or B5 (Overseas Filipino Workers) in the vaccination priority framework, Filipino seafarers have been reclassified under A4 (frontline personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the IATF as essential during ECQ) or the top 4 priority group.

Based on government data, there are a total of 549,000 active seafarers registered in the system. Around 497,000 of which are deployed overseas while 51,000 are serving locally. Meanwhile, a total of 181,000 seafarers are without updated sea service within the last three years.

In summary, there are 730,651 Filipino seafarers who are up for consideration in the A4 category, the DOTr said.

“The working group is in the unified position to push for the prioritization of Filipino seafarers in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program to secure their employment, and to ensure the safe shipping operations of essential goods amid the pandemic,” DOTr Assistant Secretary Narciso Vingson Jr. added.

The DOTr said that top priority will be given to active seafarers or those with recorded sea service within the last three years, while new seafarers or those with last recorded sea service beyond 2018 shall be ranked second.

The national government is targeting to inoculate 70 million people this year but the country has so far received more than three million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Malacañang earlier reported that more than a million Filipinos, mostly healthcare workers, have been inoculated against coronavirus disease.

Duterte tells DILG to keep monitoring complaints on ECQ aid distribution

Robie de Guzman   •   April 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to continue monitoring and investigating reported complaints regarding the distribution of government assistance to families heavily affected by the enforcement of enhanced community quarantine in the NCR Plus.

Duterte issued the directive after the DILG officer in charge Undersecretary Bernardo Florece Jr. told the president that they have not received any complaints about the aid disbursement in the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

During his pre-recorded national address with some members of the Cabinet on Monday night, Duterte said he has seen media reports about beneficiaries complaining about difficulty in claiming government subsidy.

“Maraming nagreklamo na ano, so ask your field offices to try to make rounds and investigate if these allegations are true,” he said.

“Sabi mo nga as of now malinis, then I’ll take it, but with another caveat that continue to monitor through your field offices… I do not have any reason to doubt the mayors, lalo na yung malalaki,” he added.

Florece, in turn, assured the president that all DILG senior officials are doing the rounds inspecting and monitoring the aid disbursement of local government units.

Around 22.9 million beneficiaries from low-income households in the NCR Plus are expected to benefit from the government’s assistance program which was allocated with a P22.9 billion fund.

The one-time aid program covers areas that have been placed under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period from March 29 to April 1.

The NCR Plus was reverted back to MECQ starting April 12 to April 30.

‘Slow start’: DSWD says only 8% of P22.9 billion ECQ aid distributed in NCR Plus

Robie de Guzman   •   April 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Only eight percent, or equivalent to more than P1 billion, of the fund allotted for government assistance has been distributed to low-income families affected by the 2-week enhanced community quarantine previously imposed in the NCR Plus areas, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s Talk to the People briefing on Monday night, DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said that P1.7 billion of the total P22.9 billion government assistance aid has been disbursed to beneficiaries.

Citing data from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) covering the payouts from April 7 to 9, Bautista said around 1.7 million beneficiaries in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal have already received their aid.

The government earlier said that each beneficiary will receive P1,000 or a maximum of P4,000 per family.

Bautista admitted that the rollout of the assistance was off to a “slow start” but assured that the process will speed up in the next few days.

“Makikita po natin dito na talagang may slow start but as experienced last year, na talagang start po talagang mabagal, after four to five days doon na po nag-start ng pag-distribute ng special assistance,” he said.

The DSWD chief also reported to Duterte that a joint monitoring and inspection committee has been set up for every local government to ensure that the aid is properly distributed.

Grievance committees were also created where recipients can raise their concerns on government assistance.

Metro Manila and four nearby provinces – called NCR Plus – were placed under ECQ from March 29 to April 11 in a bid to slow down the COVID-19 spread.

The said areas were reverted back to modified ECQ starting April 12 until April 30.

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