'Staycations' to be allowed in GCQ areas like Metro Manila starting October 1

(UPDATED) In a bid to revive local tourism, the Philippine government will allow "staycations" in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas like Metro Manila, its surrounding provinces, and Cebu City.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, in a message to Rappler on Friday, September 11, said this was "approved" in the meeting of coronavirus task force officials on Thursday, September 10.

The greenlighting of staycations was recommended by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to "explore various ways of restarting tourism activities during quarantine," she said.

Staycations in GCQ areas will be allowed starting October 1, Puyat told Rappler on Monday, September 14.

Staycations and tourism in general were already allowed in modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) areas back in May. MGCQ is the loosest quarantine classification in the Philippines, followed by GCQ. Only Iligan City, Bacolod City, and Lanao del Sur are under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the second strictest classification, until September 30.

What's a staycation?

Puyat defined a staycation as a "minimum overnight stay for leisure purposes in a DOT-accredited accommodation enterprise located in proximity with one's residence."

For example, a resident of Metro Manila can have a staycation in a hotel also within Metro Manila as long as both the resident and the establishment abide by the COVID-19 regulations implemented by their local governments.

The coronavirus task force's latest resolution, IATF-EID Resolution No. 70, states that "markets of specialized programs" of the DOT will now be allowed to stay at hotels, apart from health workers, Filipinos, or foreigners undergoing mandatory quarantine, and workers of allowed industries.

Hotels accepting guests are required to have a certificate of authority to operate from the DOT.

These establishments are ordered to provide only "basic accommodation services" to guests, and only use a skeletal "in-house" workforce.

Gyms, restaurants, and cafes in these accommodation establishments can operate, but they must follow all government regulations specific to their type of business.

For example, there are limits to dine-in services for restaurants and cafes in GCQ areas.

Staycationers will have to weigh risks of staying in a hotel for leisure given that many hotels are used as isolation facilities for Filipinos returning from abroad or foreigners visiting the country.

Puyat is yet to respond to Rappler's queries on how the DOT will handle such concerns.

But National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr said that this issue will be resolved by a rule that designates only 3-star hotels or lower, and motels, to be isolation facilities.

Speaking during a Palace press briefing on Tuesday, Galvez said 4-star and 5-star hotels will be reserved for tourists.

Still crafting guidelines

The DOT is still finalizing guidelines for staycations in GCQ areas. On Sunday, September 13, Puyat held a meeting with Metro Manila mayors to get their inputs.

A soon-to-be-issued DOT memorandum circular will contain "specific regulations on all aspects involved in this activity, ranging from maximum allowable number of persons in a guest room to use of ancillary services such as restaurants and recreational areas." ā€“ Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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