The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has given the Department of Tourism (DOT) a SafeTravels Stamp in recognition of its adoption of “health and hygiene global standardized protocols” that will ensure safe travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SafeTravels is the stamp of approval given by the international organization to certify compliance with its global health standards to allow for safe travels.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the DOT shall continue to uphold sustainability and safety in its programs and projects geared toward the tourism industry’s recovery.
“The Department has also intensified the accreditation of establishments, continuing thorough inspection and assessment, to ensure that only those accredited with the Department of Tourism, and issued with a Certificate of Authority to Operate, are allowed to open and receive guests. These efforts made us confident to pursue our application to use WTTC’s Safe Stamp, compelling us to align with WTTC’s health, safety and hygiene global standardized protocols. This will further restore tourist confidence and serve as an assurance to our guests that it is safe to travel in the Philippines. The way forward to our recovery is marked by strengthened partnerships with the private sector, our stakeholders and with other national government agencies,” she said during the recent WTTC Members Task Force Call.
The WTTC is an international organization representing leaders of the global travel and tourism industry, which accounts for 10 percent of the global gross domestic product and employment.
As a user of the stamp, the DOT will have the opportunity to assume the role of a SafeTravels ambassador to the stakeholders, advocating the implementation and full compliance of protocols.
Eligible companies such as hotels, airlines, restaurants, tour operators, attractions, transportation and airports will use the stamp as a guarantee that they conform to health and safety protocols required by the WTTC.
“The DOT is one with the global tourism industry in prioritizing health and safety of travelers. In support of this shared advocacy, we will constantly improve our protocols, to make sure that our stakeholders, communities, and workers in the Philippines that rely on tourism can resume their livelihood safely once travel restrictions are eased,” Puyat said.
The DOT earlier released “new normal” health and safety protocols for hotels, resorts, other accommodation establishments, restaurants, tourist land transport services, beach and island destinations and meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) facilities and organizers.
Puyat added that travelers also have a shared responsibility in the process of keeping tourism in the Philippines safe.
“The concept of responsible traveling should no longer be limited to keeping our destinations and attractions clean and preserved. In the new normal, travelers will have a bigger role to play. The success of health and safety measures will rely also on their cooperation,” she added.
While national parks may be “America’s best idea,” they aren’t exclusive to the United States. There are more than 3,000 national parks around the world, and many of them offer spectacular scuba diving.
Editor’s note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.
Above the surface in Kenya, you’ll see lions, elephants and giraffes, but an underwater safari in this eastern African country will have you spotting white tip reef sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and the occasional humpback whale. Mombasa Marine Park and National Reserve is a highlight for underwater photography, while Malindi Marine National Park is the site of Barracuda Channel, where you can also find spider conch in shallower water.
Twenty of Kenya’s best dive sites are at Watamu Marine National Park, home to the rare and endangered green sea turtle, and Kisite Mpunguti Marine Reserve has diving from 4.5 to 30m (15 to 100ft) with exceptional visibility. Plan your Kenyan dive trip between November and March, when the water is calm and a comfortable 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).
Until 2005, divers only had access to 998km (620mi) of Greece’s 16,093km (10,000mi) of coastline. But when the legislation changed, people began flocking to the Aegean and Ionian seas to explore the ancient underwater artifacts. Archaeology lovers will enjoy diving the Peristera shipwreck just offshore from Alonissos National Marine Park.
Dating to 5th century B.C., this Athenian cargo ship holds thousands of containers used to transport wine. Zakynthos National Marine Park was the first of its kind in the Mediterranean, and you’ll come across damselfish and wrasse at the Lakka site, monk seals and octopus at Marathia, and the beautiful butterfly exit of Cave Tunnel.
Greece also opened two new underwater archaeological parks in 2018: Sapientza Islet, featuring a shipwreck that transported two Roman sarcophagi dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., and Navarino Bay, located on a Peloponnesian island with three Ottoman warships sunk during a battle in 1827. The best months to dive are July to September, but you’ll still want a wetsuit for water temperatures ranging from 16 to 23 degrees Celsius (60 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit).
One of the most unusual dives on the planet is in Iceland’s Þingvellir National Park. At Silfra, you’ll don a drysuit and descend 18m (59ft) into the freezing water to a spot where you can simultaneously touch two tectonic plates.
This crack between the North American and Eurasian continents is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and the water that flows through it is crystal clear, offering divers year-round visibility of up to 100m (328ft). After taking the obligatory photo at Big Crack, fin over to the Silfra Hall site with its high lava walls and Silfra Lagoon, where you can get close to the abundant marine life living in the fissure.
At the thousands of dive sites scattered throughout the Philippines, you’ll be enchanted by the more than 1,200 macro and pelagic species that live in these waters. In fact, the incredible biodiversity of Tubbataha Reefs National Park in Palawan earned it Unesco World Heritage Site status.
Board a liveaboard in Puerto Princesa City, then sail to dive sites like Amos Rock, Washing Machine and Black Rock to experience 600 species of fish, 360 species of coral, 11 species of sharks and 13 species of dolphins and whales, along with manta rays, barracuda, nudibranchs, pipefish and seahorses.
If a liveaboard isn’t in your budget, you can still see a boatload of sea life at Moalboal on the island of Cebu, where you’ll sail on a traditional double outrigger canoe called a bangka. Moalboal is world-renowned for its sardine run, an enormous bait ball of approximately seven million small fish that attract larger marine life in search of food. While you can dive the warm Philippine waters year round, you’ll witness the most wildlife and avoid monsoons if you visit between March and June.
Bonaire National Marine Park is the world’s oldest marine reserve. Part of the ABC Islands, which also include Aruba and Curaçao, this Dutch territory is best known for dozens of shore dive sites marked with painted yellow rocks. Pay your US$25 park fee, get an unlimited air package from a beachside resort, and dive Bonaire to your heart’s content any month of the year.
You’ll encounter tuna, marlin, wahoo and swordfish at open water sites like Cliff and Something Special; lobster, parrotfish, squid and moray eels along the coral reefs at the Karpata and Bari Reef sites; and sea turtles and endangered queen conch in the mangroves of Lac Bay. It’s also worth booking a night dive at Salt Pier and a boat dive to explore the Hilma Hooker wreck. And while lionfish are an invasive species in this part of the world, they make for a delicious pizza that’s a Bonaire specialty.
Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the continent’s deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika, are both found in Tanzania, along with some incredible diving. The name “Tanganyika” is Swahili for “sail the wilderness,” and the diving here is nothing short of an underwater safari.
Chumbe Island Coral Park on the Zanzibar archipelago includes a fully-protected coral reef sanctuary, and the sea life is some of the most bountiful in the world. Levan Bank on the northern side of Zanzibar is one of the country’s most famous sites with big game fish like tuna, trevally and kingfish swimming in the warm water of the Indian Ocean, and turtles, dolphins and whale sharks can be seen at the Mnemba Atoll reef from September to December.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has launched an online training program for the country’s tourism stakeholders to stay relevant, learn to cope with the difficulties arising from the global pandemic novel coronavirus or COVID–19, and to facilitate transition to recovery.
DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo–Puyat said the program dubbed DOT Online Training is done via Zoom video–conferencing and offers the stakeholders an option to use their time productively during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which has been extended to April 30.
“The DOT is developing online courses for tourism stakeholders. This conceptualized as an alternative to the regular training programs being conducted by the Office of Industry Manpower Development. This our vision in embracing a new normal for our industry,” said Puyat.
The tourism chief added that the course covers two subject areas: 1) Tourism Enterprise which involves monitoring, evaluating and learning from past and present situations to enable tourism stakeholders to prepare better for the future; and 2) Filipino Brand of Service which applies the seven Filipino values or “7Ms” that characterize Filipino hospitality, namely May Likha, Makatao, Makakalikasan, Makabansa, Masayahin, May–Bayanihan and May–Pag–asa.
“We can turn the temporary inactivity during lockdown into an opportunity to enhance the quality of tourist services. We can objectively look back at our past and current performance and utilize the breathing space to plan how we can further upgrade our services in our respective areas in the industry with the values of Filipino hospitality,” said Secretary Puyat.
The DOT Chief enjoined the tourism stakeholders to participate in the online training program, adding that the DOT is set to develop additional modules on other topics.
“The DOT will continue to develop other online courses to enhance skills, assist and encourage stakeholders to cope, transition and move towards recovery”.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo–Puyat assures the public that the Department of Tourism (DOT) is doing everything within its mandate to aid the stakeholders of the country’s tourism industry in light of the COVID–19 pandemic.
The assertion comes on the heels of the appeal of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) for government to provide aid to local travel agencies weathering the impact of the Covid–19 pandemic.
Puyat noted that some points and suggestions raised by the PTAA have been incorporated in the Tourism Response and Recovery Program as well as incentives lined up by the DOT and its attached agencies to help tourism–related businesses and their work force get back on their feet.
“To cushion the impact, the DOT and its attached agencies, even before the lockdown, laid out the response and recovery plan during the initial stages of the COVID–19 outbreak in the country with the tourism sector taking a direct hit early on,” Secretary Puyat added, noting that the DOT will be extending a wide range of assistance not only to tour operators, but to the entire travel and hospitality sector.
The DOT’s immediate response actions include the implementation of a moratorium on the collection of accreditation fees from new and renewing applicants from Tourism Enterprises (TEs) and Tourism–Related Enterprises (TREs) for the year 2020. The DOT and the Tourism Promotions Board have also waived the participation fees in international fairs and exhibitions between now and the end of 2021.
Also among the immediate response of DOT was mounting its own 20 sweeper flights and assisting those by embassies that helped many of the travel trade’s clients leave the country. As of 14 April 2020, the DOT was able to extend assistance to 19,898 foreign tourists and 1,456 domestic tourists.
The DOT was also able to assist the OWWA in looking for rooms for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies, and bank workers. As of 13 April 2020, the DOT was able to find a total of 13,116 rooms in the NCR for OFWs and 25,687 rooms for BPO agents, bank workers, and health frontliners.
The DOT also submitted to the Department of Labor (DOLE) the list of displaced workers from various tourism–related enterprises for cash assistance. Along with other industries, employees of tourism enterprises will be provided with a 5 to 8 thousand peso wage subsidy per worker under DOF’s program.
The agency likewise lobbied with the DOLE to include tourism front–liners among the recipients of Hazard Pay for the duration of the ECQ, especially those who work at accommodation establishments that house health workers and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and risk contamination to COVID–19.
In response to to the appeal of the travel industry, the DOT has also been communicating with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to provide rehabilitation financing support such as, but not limited to, extending low interest loans for tourism enterprises that have been severely affected by the COVID–19. Relative to this, the DBP has identified the tourism industry under COVID–19 as qualifying under its program called Rehabilitation Support Program on Severe Events or RESPONSE, which aims to provide rehabilitation financing support through low interest loans to business, which have been adversely affected by calamities. The Land Bank of the Philippines will also assist tourism stakeholders under its program called: Rehabilitation Support to Cushion Unfavorably Affected Enterprises by Covid–19 (I–RESCUE) Lending Program.
The department has also made appropriate representation with the Social Security System (SSS), PAGIBIG Fund, and PhilHealth for the deferment of tourism workers’ contributions. Upon these representations Philhealth has agreed to extend the deadline to remit the members’ savings/contributions until two weeks after the lifting of the ECQ without any penalty. PAGIBIG has also agreed to extend its deadline of payment of premium contributions for the first quarter of 2020 to 30 April 2020. Social Security System agreed to extend the deadline for the remittance of contributions until 01 June 2020.
On the other hand, for the requested deferment of corporate income tax payments by the BIR, as well as other interventions which require the action of other government agencies, the DOT has made the necessary representation with the proper government agencies for these interventions and will follow up on behalf of the travel industry.
As for the association’s request for rent and utility discounts, and travel agency commission from airlines, these are normally matters governed by contracts between private parties, and not subject to government intervention, but they can be subject of legislation which can provide financing or subsidies therefor. The same thing may be said for the association’s request for salary and travel tour expo subsidies. All these matters will be raised by the DOT to the Congress which is also currently considering a bill granting a fiscal stimulus package to the tourism industry.
The DOT assures its tourism stakeholders that it will continue to extend them assistance to cushion the impact of the crisis on the industry.
(San Francisco, CA) — For the foreseeable future, everyday life and business around the world have changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the numerous, significantly impacted sectors are American Filipino restaurants and chefs, whose collective work has strongly influenced the American food scene. As social distancing and the quarantine continue, businesses pivot their models, and adapt from in-house dining to take out and delivery services. This change is the impetus for two campaigns led by the Filipino Food Movement that will launch this week — Support Filipino Takeout and Kulinarya LIVE!
Support Filipino Takeout is a call to action for all Filipino restaurants and food purveyors to submit their menus to the Filipino Food Movement which will be made available via the nonprofit’s social media platforms. The national directory aims to make Filipino food accessible to a nation that continues to stay at home. Chefs, food entrepreneurs, and restaurateurs can submit their info here: https://bit.ly/2wqrwkA
On social media, the Filipino food scene has shown a significant uptick in activity and interest with daily menus, food photography, cooking demonstrations, and a constant search for easy recipes to make at home.
On April 9, at 12 pm Pacific, Filipino Food Movement will premiere a live-streamed series, Kulinarya Live! The series will bring Filipino chefs from around the world into mobile phones and screens, streaming over Facebook (@filipinofoodmovement.) Its first live stream features a multi-awarded San Francisco chef, Francis Ang of Pinoy Heritage.
“The idea was to utilize our social media reach to promote Filipino food business. Each chef or restauranteur is encouraged to compete in the digital space. We want to amplify their voices,” shared Sonia Delen, President of the Filipino Food Movement. “We hope that both projects continue to push the presence of Filipino cuisine in the global food scene and bring comfort and enjoyment to Filipinos all over the world.”
Filipino Food Movement is a community-based organization that was formed in 2014 to generate broad awareness, appreciation, and enhanced investment in Filipino culinary arts. Its mission is to support Filipino cuisine and its purveyors to create a recognizable footprint in the mainstream food scene.
The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) is encouraging the public to “travel from home” by providing virtual backgrounds that people can feature in video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Webex, and many more.
The photos can be downloaded from www.philippines.travel/fromhome for free and will allow users to showcase the beautiful landscapes of the Philippines from the safety and comfort of one’s home.
The “Travel From Home” virtual backgrounds take you to some of the most popular travel spots in the country and are arranged to reflect the relevant times of day do you can have your early morning meeting with a glorious mountain sunrise and your evening one with a golden beach sunset.
The DOT reminds everyone that while our destinations miss you, it’s vital that you stay at home as much as possible during the community quarantine so you can return to your favorite places in the Philippines soon.
Known for his work on “Independence Day,” “Godzilla, “Leverage,” and “The Librarians,” this is Devlin’s first project involving his Filipino roots.
The series is centered around Alex Walker (Christian Kane, “The Librarians” and “Angel”), a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who goes into early retirement and moves to a beach in the Philippines he remembers visiting years ago. Alex finds himself drawn into cases where he uses his skills as a longtime operative to put away the bad guys that cross his path.
The idea came to Devlin during his honeymoon in Hawaii some 14 years ago when the local news had a story about residents capturing a drug dealer on their own.
“It just got me thinking about island justice, island culture and island spirituality. I always said, ‘I really would like to write something about that,’” Devlin told the Asian Journal. “Over the years, I thought, ‘Why do it in Hawaii?’ I’m half Filipino and I’ve never done anything connected to my own culture so when the idea came to put this story in the Philippines then things started to accelerate quite quickly.”
Beyond the “poverty porn” and other stereotypical notions people may have about the Philippines, Devlin didn’t want to make the storyline about the current political climate and the controversial drug war.
“To be able to bring things from the culture — the looks, the costumes, the traditions — and put that seamlessly in a very American show…one of the goals here is not to say that Filipinos are the other. The goal is to say Filipinos are us and we’re all part of the same beautiful community,” he said.
As for the challenges that came with filming in the country, Devlin joked, saying “The better question is what wasn’t the challenge?” His production company, Electric Entertainment, partnered with ABS-CBN and built a soundstage at Bigfoot Studios in Cebu.
Thankfully, the production had finished and left the Philippines before the government stopped international flights because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We literally wrapped production 18 hours before they stopped the international flights. It was crazy. It felt like we were on the top of that building in Saigon during the fall of Vietnam trying to get the last helicopter out. But we finished the season,” Devlin said.
The 10-episode series, shot in the island of Cebu, features a predominantly Filipino cast and crew. Actors Samantha Richelle and Arthur Acuña star as detectives Kai Mendoza and Ernesto Alamares, respectively.
When Devlin and Kane took a trip to Manila to scout local talent, Richelle auditioned for the role of Kai Mendoza upon the recommendation of Dela Torre and blew them away.
“In me preparing for the role of Kai, I literally fell in love with her…She’s such a ballsy character, but yet also very sympathetic. It was just amazing to be able to delve into that,” Richelle told the Asian Journal, adding that a week before filming began, she did combat training and learned how to shoot.
“You’ll see in the show, every episode we pushed a little bit farther on [how] she can go as an actor and every time we raised the expectations, Samantha reached it. This character really develops over the course of the season and this is no easy acting job,” Devlin said. “She’s really the breakout actor on this show.”
Filmmakers Francis Dela Torre, Hannah Espia, Dan Villegas and Irene Villamor directed several episodes; meanwhile, Pao Orendain served as director of photography and Digo Ricio as production designer.
“This is a very intense American way of doing a TV series…This crew was amazingly responsive because this was not in their comfort zone at all. It’s not the way that they do shows in the Philippines. They were all eager to learn [and]…they all kind of wanted to show what they could do,” Devlin added.
With more Filipino faces on an American network, Devlin sees it as a way to usher in more Filipino representation.
“There’s been a wonderful explosion of diversity in entertainment over the last few years. But the Asian community in general — and the Filipino community in specific — has really been left behind that. We wanted to be part of the energy that’s correcting that and part of pushing us into the spotlight and saying, ‘Hey, take a look. I think you’re gonna like what you see,’” he said.
“Almost Paradise” airs on WGN America at 10 p.m. ET.
MANILA – At least 10,300 individuals, mostly foreign travelers affected by the enhanced community quarantine, have been assisted as of Tuesday, March 24, 2020 by the Department of Tourism (DOT), Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat disclosed.
A virtual COVID-19 command center coordinated the skeletal workforce of the DOT regional offices throughout the country.
From this number, 7,915 are tourists assisted through sweeper flights that transported stranded tourists from various destinations to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Clark International Airport, in joint efforts with Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and Air Swift. Chartered flights were also made available to move stranded tourists.
“The Department of Tourism has been doing everything within its resources to ease the congestion in the different regions by facilitating the movement of foreign tourists stranded in the different islands of the country,” stressed Secretary Puyat.
Five sweeper flights carried stranded tourists out of Siargao to Clark Airport last Saturday and Sunday.
At least four sweeper flights will fly out of Boracay Island over the weekend, with two more scheduled on Thursday March 26. Meanwhile, additional sweeper flights will fly out of Iloilo, Tacloban, and Cagayan de Oro tomorrow, March 25.
Three sweeper flights are set to leave from Davao and Puerto Princesa on March 26.
Meanwhile, DOT regional offices are facilitating the transport of travelers by land in Luzon and by sea with inter-island vessels, like the Philippine Coast Guard boats used to sail tourists from the islands of Bohol, Siguijor, and Negros to Cebu.
Also arranged were shuttle services and hotel accommodations provided to some stranded tourists. Free food and hygienic items, called MalasaKits, were distributed at the NAIA terminals.
Craving that cinematic island escape? Enter El Nido and it’s surrounding islands and lagoons for your daydreaming needs. The island of Palawan is where you’ll find El Nido, your base for this venture through turquoise blue waters, hidden lagoons and limestone cliffs towering out of the sea. Head out on a traditional boat to picnic in the sun, snorkel amongst fish and discover untouched beaches.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) welcomed the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to lift the 72-hour window for individuals departing overseas.
DOT coordinated with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employments to provide the joint guidelines for the lifting of the ban.
OFWs, Balikbayans, and foreign nationals will be allowed to leave at any time during the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon, provided they travel only to the airport within 24 hours of the date and time of their departure. Outgoing passengers must provide documents of their departure, such as an electronic ticket or flight itinerary.
Filipino citizens are strictly not allowed to take outbound international flight to countries where travel restrictions are in place.
Outbound passengers may be accompanied only by one companion/driver to and from the airport, who shall likewise carry a copy of such e-ticket or itinerary.
Select Hotels To Remain Open
Hotels and similar establishments shall remain closed under the guidelines of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, except for the following:
1. those with foreign guests that have existing booking accommodations as of March 17, 2020;
2.those with checked-in guests on long-term leases;
3.those accommodating employees from exempted establishments under the provisions of the March 16, 2020 Memorandum from the Executive secretary.
Hotels and similar establishments except for those classified in #3 above are not allowed to accept new bookings.
Assistance to All Tourists
The DOT has created a Tourism Airport Team to provide 24-hour service to tourists at airport including assistance in arranging flights, securing bookings, transportation, meals and accommodation. DOT is in close collaboration with local government unit (LGU) officers, local airport staff and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for this effort.
The Regional Offices of DOT have been proactive in informing tourism stakeholders such as hotels, island resorts, tour operators and local government units to communicate the intensified travel restrictions of the Enhanced Community Quarantine to foreign tourists in each destination, especially those in remote islands.
“The DOT is committed to working with all stakeholders, especially the LGUs and the inter-agency task force (IATF), in ensuring that the safety and the needs of our domestic and international tourists are addressed and resolved,” stated Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) is committed to
ensuring the health and safety of its travelers. Please be guided by the major
updates regarding travel-related activities in the Philippines.
the stringent Social Distancing Measures being imposed in the National Capital
Region (NCR) for 30 days starting 00:00 AM of 15 March 2020 until 00:00 AM of
14 April 2020, the following will apply:
All land, domestic air and domestic sea travel to and from the NCR are
All departing passengers shall be allowed transit through the NCR, provided
that proof of confirmed international travel itinerary, scheduled within twelve
(12) hours from entry, is presented at checkpoints. However, outbound travel to
countries where travel restrictions are in place remains prohibited.
All travel restrictions previously issued shall remain in effect. Current
travel restrictions imposed are on foreign travel to and from China, including
its Special Administrative Regions (SARs) Hong Kong and Macau, and the North
Gyeongsang Province of South Korea including Daegu and Cheongdo
Travellers from Iran and Italy (except Filipino citizens, including their
foreign spouse and children, if any, and holders of Permanent Resident Visas or
9(e) Diplomatic Visas issued by the Philippine Government) shall be required to
present a medical certificate issued by competent medical authorities within
forty-eight (48) hours immediately preceding departure signifying that they
have tested negative for COVID-19.
The various local government units (LGUs) of destinations in the Philippines
are required to abide by the directives of the Department of Health (DOH) and
the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the imposition of
general community quarantine guidelines in their respective jurisdictions.
such, some destinations may already restrict tourists from entering in order to
contain and prevent further spread of the virus.
Mass gatherings such as movie screenings, concerts, sporting events and other
entertainment activities, community assemblies, and non-essential work-related
gatherings shall be prohibited