Duterte asks local carriers, hotels to help boost PH tourism amid COVID-19 threat

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2020   •   227

MANILA, Philippines – Tourism industry stakeholders agreed to help boost domestic travel by offering discounted airfare and hotel rates following a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, Malacañang said.

Duterte called for the meeting to discuss plans to counter the negative effects of the spread of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and to promote the country’s tourism sector to local tourists.

The move comes after the Philippine government imposed a temporary entry ban on foreign nationals who travelled to virus-hit areas in China and its special administrative regions, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan, in the past 14 days in a bid to contain the spread of the disease.

Chinese and Taiwanese nationals, as well as South Koreans, are among the country’s top visitors.

Malacañang said that during the meeting, the president revealed that some of the country’s major airlines and hotels agreed to offer lower rates to make a viable market for local tourists.

“The President wants Filipinos to visit the country’s local tourist destinations to boost the industry in the midst of the coronavirus scare,” the Palace said in a press statement.

Duterte also said that local tourism industry has a lot to offer as he highlighted the country’s “good public health and law and order situation.”

“Local tourist spots are also readily accessible,” the Palace added.

The chief executive also expressed optimism that like other epidemics, the COVID-19 will eventually be contained, Malacañang said.

Among those who attended the meeting held in Pasay City were Philippine Hotel Owners Association President Arthur Lopez, AirAsia Philippines CEO Ricardo Isla, Philippine Airlines President Gilbert Santamaria, and Cebu Pacific Air President and CEO Lance Gokongwei.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato, Tourism Assistant Secretary Howard Lance Uyking and Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go were also present.

In a press conference after the meeting, Romulo-Puyat revealed that Duterte will also help promote domestic travel by visiting top tourist destinations beginning next week.

She said the president may visit Boracay, Cebu and Bohol in a bid to prove that domestic travel remains safe amid novel coronavirus threat.

Romulo-Puyat also said that the tourism sector would intensify its promotions and roll out more value-added packages, discounted accommodation and airfare for local tourists in the coming days.

Filipinos aboard quarantined ship in Japan to be repatriated on Feb. 23 – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   February 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship being quarantined due to cases of coronavirus among its passengers in Yokohama, Japan will be repatriated by the Philippine government on Sunday, February 23, the Department of Health (DOH) announced Thursday.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters in a briefing that the Filipinos will arrive at the Haribon Hangar of Clark Airbase in two planes and will be brought to New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Of the 3,711 people onboard the cruise ship, 538 are Filipinos – 531 are crew members while seven are passengers.

The health chief said they need to bring home as soon as possible Filipinos who did not test positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and are not showing symptoms of the illness.

However, Filipinos aboard the cruise ship who were found infected with the disease will not be repatriated as they will have to be brought to a hospital to undergo treatment or monitoring.

As of Thursday, the number of Filipinos on the vessel who were found positive for COVID-19 has risen to 44.

Duque said the Philippine government is willing to assist Filipinos who contracted the disease once they have recovered.

He also said that it is not yet known how many Filipinos will return home as some might still decide to stay after disembarking the ship on Wednesday when the two-week quarantine period ended.

The entire cruise ship was placed on quarantine last February 3 after one of its passengers tested positive for the virus.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. earlier ordered for the immediate repatriation of Filipinos aboard the cruise ship.

The DFA said they have been coordinating with Japanese authorities and the operator of the vessel to ensure that everything will be smooth once the repatriation process begins. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

PUV operators ask LTFRB to remove P5,000 penalty vs drivers for not wearing facemasks while on duty

Maris Federez   •   February 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila jeepney operators asked the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to remove the P5,000.00 fine being imposed on public utility vehicles (PUV) drivers for not wearing facemasks while on transport.

Under the LTFRB memorandum circular 2020-05, drivers and operators are required to wear facemasks as part of their safety precaution against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Alliance of Concerned Transport Operators (ACTO) President Efren de Luna said they are always ready to take heed on the said measure, except that they are having difficulty finding available face masks in the market.

“Ang problema ho dun walang mabilhan, pag walang raw hong mask, may bayad ng 5000, may fine na penalty na P5,000,” de Luna said.

He pointed out that even the Department of Health has advised that due to the shortage in the supply of facemasks, priority is given to health workers and patients on its usage.

The LTFRB, on the other hand, said during the hearing at the House Committee on Transportation that it will review the said measure and will take the request into consideration. — (from the report of Vincent Arboleda) /mbmf

More passengers leave quarantined cruise ship in Japan to go home

UNTV News   •   February 19, 2020

Disembarkation of passengers on the virus-hit cruise ship moored near Tokyo continued on Wednesday (February 19), after a controversial two-week quarantine that saw more than 500 people infected with the new coronavirus originating in China.

Buses escorted by Japan’s Self Defense Force and police vehicles were seen transporting passengers out of the port throughout the day, while remaining passengers looked on from the ship’s balcony.

The Diamond Princess, operated by Carnival Corp, was quarantined on arrival in the port of Yokohama since Feb. 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it traveled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus. More than 540 people have been infected with the virus on the liner, which originally carried some 3,700 passengers and crew.

Foreign nationals such as Australians, Hong Kongers, and Canadians were set to leave the ship on Wednesday. The governments of these countries are preparing to evacuate them on chartered flights. (Reuters)

(Production: Akira Tomoshige, Kohei Miyazaki, Hideto Sakai, Akiko Okamoto)

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