REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE/FILE PHOTO

The Philippines is waiting for an appropriate time to negotiate “travel bubble” arrangements with its neighbors in order to restart international tourism, according to the Department of Tourism (DoT).

Pagdating ng tamang panahon, kapag inalis na nila ang restrictions on international travel, maaaring i-explore na rin natin ang possibility ng mga tourism bubbles with neighboring countries (We may explore travel bubbles with our neighbors when the time comes, such as when restrictions ease on international travel,” Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon, Jr. said at a televised briefing Friday.

Travel bubbles are so called because they are confined to travelers between two destinations, whose governments trust that their partners have managed COVID-19 adequately, mitigating any risk of importing the coronavirus. Pairs of destinations that have agreed to bubble arrangements include Australia and New Zealand, and Hong Kong and Singapore.

Mr. Bengzon also urged travelers to avail of government-subsidized coronavirus testing. Tests are required for travel to both domestic and international destination.

Under the program, the DoT subsidizes 50% of the cost of a swab test for travelers getting their tests done at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) or Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC).

The regular price of a swab test at the PGH is P1,800.00. The PCMC price is P1,500.

Mr. Bengzon said about 12,000 travelers have availed of the subsidized tests at the PGH and around 11,000 to 12,000 availing of the discount at the PCMC.

According to a study conducted by the DoT, 81% of more than 7,000 respondents have cited the stringent requirements of local governments for visiting tourist destinations in the Philippines as a deterrent to travel, Mr. Bengzon said.

He said 68% also complained of the high cost of coronavirus testin.

Mr. Bengzon said the DoT supports the streamlining and harmonization of travel requirements. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza