PCCI chapters in Region 6 unite to call for saliva testing for Boracay-bound tourists

PHOTO CAPTION: With consistent low-tourism count since the pandemic started, Boracay businesses and stakeholders have found an ally in the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is appealing to Boracay-IATF, the DILG, and the DoT to allow the conduct of saliva-based RT-PCR tests, which, if approved, is expected to encourage more tourists to the island./iNEWS (Photo: Nickie Cahilig)

BORACAY ISLAND–Well in agreement with it being a lot cheaper, faster, and easier to administer than the RT-PCR swab test widely used in the country today, various chapters of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in Western Visayas made a joint appeal to implement the use of the RT-PCR Saliva Test in this resort island.

The appeal, signed on Friday by eight (8) officials of the PCCI, an organization of local chambers and industry associations representing various sectors of business, is addressed to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, chair of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, as well as to DILG Secretary Eduardo Aَño and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

“We would like the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force to seriously review and consider, and, if acceptable and reliable, approve the immediate use of the RT-PCR Saliva test as an alternate testing mode for Boracay-bound tourists,” the appeal stated.

The group contended that aside from being cheaper in cost than the present RT-PCR swab test, the saliva testing will only require a turn-around time of 3 to 4 hours contrary to the 24 hours of the standard swab test.

“The saliva test also undergoes the same RT-PCR technique, which is the gold standard for COVID-19 testing, and initial tests conducted by the Philippine Red Cross yielded a 98.11% accuracy,” they claimed, emphasizing, “This will ensure the timely and accurate COVID testing for both tourists and other stakeholders alike, thus promoting a safer, healthier, and better environment that would further boost and fast track the economic recovery of the island.”

The signatories include PCCI Regional Governor for Western Visayas Ronald So, Wesley Van Der Voort of PCCI-Boracay, Atty. Jobert Peñaflorida of PCCI-Iloilo, Roberto Montelibano of Metro Bacolod CCI, Ramel Buncalan of PCCI-Aklan-Chapter, Vicente Lagunday of Antique CCI, Engr. Dale Bernas of Capiz Halaran CCI, and Neptune Pittman of Guimaras CCI.

In their appeal, the PCCI officials also requested government support to install a molecular laboratory for saliva testing either in Caticlan or Boracay Island, which they said will benefit the entire Western Visayas region since other cities and provinces also supply both labor and materials to the island.

JUMPING BOARD 

Citing Boracay being still the top tourism destination of the country, the PCCI officials underscored that “it can effectively serve as the jumping board in regaining our momentum in terms of tourism.”

In an interview with iNEWS, Buncalan of Aklan PCCI Chapter said that while the recent data on the number of tourist arrivals to Boracay is still way low and not enough for Boracay stakeholders to survive and sustain their operations, “it is encouraging and proves to us that despite the health requirements, people really do want to visit the island. So why not unburden the tourists from the prohibitive cost of the RT-PCR test and use saliva testing instead?”

The Malay Tourism Office recorded 15,307 visitors to the island in December 2020 and 11,898 in January 2021.

Based on numbers crunched by iNEWS, the recent statistics are nowhere near the pre-pandemic figures of between 3,000 and 5,000 daily.

“While we deplore the recent incidents of tourists with fake RT-PCR tests trying to get into Boracay, this shows the serious interests of many (travelers) to, once again, visit the island especially as we approach the summer season,” PCCI said./(N. Glenn Aragon/iNEWS)

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