Divert flights, quarantine OFWs in Cebu to free up Manila hotels

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DIVERT flights from Metro Manila to Cebu to decongest isolation or quarantine hotels in the country’s capital.

This was the call of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) to the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Health (DOH) after Metro Manila hotels reported that they were fully booked by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“The positive cases in Metro Manila are very high and their hospitals are already at full capacity. That’s why the Manila hotel group was asked if more rooms could be converted to isolation or quarantine facilities, but they said they were already full of OFWs,” said HRRAC president Alfred Reyes in an interview.

Philippine Hotel Owners Association president Arthur Lopez, during a Laging Handa public briefing, said all Metro Manila hotels are now full and cannot be converted to isolation facilities.

“To help the Philippines, especially the National Capital Region (NCR), the government should start thinking of stopping the sending of OFWs to Manila. To free up some hotels, divert their flights to Cebu. Cebu is open. The hotels are very much open, and are in fact asking the DOT and the DOH for business,” Reyes said.

Reyes said there are 21 properties ready to serve as a mixed quarantine facility and a leisure hotel with 1,800 rooms.

“Cebu has done this arrangement when it had its peak (of Covid-19 cases). Our hotels also sacrificed to help the community and the country,” he said.

Moreover, the HRRAC president said discussions on quarantine hotels that want to accept staycation guests and staycation hotels willing to accept quarantine guests should be revisited.

Reyes said the DOT can give a two-month timeline for a hotel to act both as a quarantine facility and a leisure hotel provided that health protocols will still be followed.

“This is just a temporary solution to ease up the problem in the NCR so we can help more people,” he said.

Reyes said this arrangement was done before and no guests were infected with Covid-19.

At present, hotels and resorts are given the option by the DOT to operate either as a leisure or quarantine hotel or resort.

OFWs are subjected to swab tests and quarantine upon their arrival in the Philippnes.

Last March 30, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order 17 allowing accredited hotels accepting OFWs and returning non-OFWs waiting for their swab test results, to accept other bookings from the general public following health and safety protocols prescribed by the DOH. (JOB)