Tourism in the Philippines, China, boosters, travel plans

Tourists at the famous Willy's Rock on Boracay Island in the Philippines.

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

The Philippines will open to foreign tourists from “green” countries before the end of the year, and domestic tourism has increased so dramatically for Boracay Island that airlines have added more flights.

Still: it’s nowhere near pre-pandemic numbers. Still: it’s better than nothing.

I’ve seen porters lugging baggage get tipped 100 pesos ($2) who are absolutely joyful for the income. It is nice to see people smile. For a while during this pandemic, people began to look like shell-shocked ghosts of war.

Most of the tourists to Boracay are from the National Capital Region (NCR), also known as the Manila region. A fully vaccinated tourist no longer needs a swab test. A non-vaccinated tourist needs a negative result within 72 hours of travel.

The surge of recent visitors has caused a few problems, actually.

  • Visitors couldn’t secure a QR code and weren’t allowed onto the island. The mayor blamed lack of equipment and manpower, and says the issue is fixed, but didn’t address whether the would’ve-been visitors got a refund.
  • Trike drivers try to charge me ridiculous rates – they assume I’m a tourist. I’m not offended, but after nearly TWO YEARS of paying and tipping everywhere I go, it grinds on me.
  • More trash is around the beach, at the docks, and even oil spots line the road at the port from more traffic.

Up to 2,000 people a day are packing onto Boracay now. Before the pandemic, 4,100 tourists arrived at the island — each day.

More foreign tourists came from China than anywhere else. But Chinese tourists aren’t allowed to travel yet, even though they will soon be allowed back into the Philippines. (By the way, the USA is NOT on the ‘green list’.)

I’ve seen some estimates that say Boracay won’t be back to pre-pandemic tourism levels until 2025.

Trouble with China

As I write this, another Philippine naval ship sits right off our coast. The last time this happened was about a year ago when Chinese ‘militia’ boats threatened Philippine fishing boats.

This time the Chinese blasted Philippine supply boats with water cannons. Crew recorded the attack, and it went viral around this part of the world.

The U.S. State Department issued its strongest-worded statement since all this hubub started. Tap the image below to read the full statement. And if you missed my earlier posts on the problem, you’ll find them here and here.

"Statement on the situation in the South China Sea" by the U.S. State Department.

Basically, China ignores the ‘rules’ mentioned by the State Department because it had no part in making those rules.

I’m reading Destined for War by Graham Allison to better understand what’s happening. While I still think this is really about a resource race, there are significant cultural obstacles between the West and China at play that compound the problem of China’s sense of entitlement and the world structure set by Americans.

The picture below shows the BRP Davao del Sur naval ship parked in front of Boracay Island. I could swim out there from the beach by our rental, it’s so close.

I heard the engine running when I woke up at 4:00 a.m. the morning of November 19.

It is the second time I’ve seen the Philippine navy in these waters stay for a visit in the last year. Going back in history further, locals say it’s not entirely unusual, and they aren’t concerned.

Booster shots

The first people to get booster shots against COVID-19 are medical frontliners. They are group A1. Then elderly will be A2.

There is a specific list of diseases to qualify people for the booster in the A3 group. Luckily, like the first round, I believe we will be able to get a booster in that group.

It’s been nearly five months since we were vaccinated with Johnson and Johnson. Time flies.

Before we leave the Philippines, we need to get a World Health Organization vaccination certificate. At the moment, it is not offered near us. The nearest Bureau of Quarantine office is in Kalibo, and that location will (hopefully) offer these certificates soon.

Travel plans

That brings me to the last update: our travel plans.

We have decided to stay in Motag, Malay, Aklan, through the holidays. We’ll continue evaluating our options every week, however.

As of this writing, there are two key issues with us leaving the Philippines – we need that WHO travel certificate, and as world travelers, we need a booster that will be accepted in a majority of countries.

That is in addition to any testing, visa limits, travel options for us coming from the Philippines.

The United States keeps donating a ton of Pfizer shots to this developing nation. Shortly after we had the Janssen jabs, Pfizer was finally offered here in Malay. Fingers crossed we can get the Pfizer booster when it’s our turn.

Thanks for reading, “Tourism in the Philippines, China, boosters, travel plans.”

Earth Vagabonds have been on a travel pause since March 16, 2020, the day things shut down in this part of the world. In that time, they’ve worked on several self-sustainability projects with the indigenous Ati tribe, helped local friends through the pandemic storm, enjoyed empty Boracay beaches. Also, Ellen wrote a book and is working on a second one.

2 thoughts on “Tourism in the Philippines, China, boosters, travel plans”

  1. I hope you can get your booster. Here in the states and in Mexico we haven’t been asked for any certificate of vaccination. When we travel to Europe next year, we will need to show our physical CDC vaccination card. Booster shots here in Southern California we’re just approved for adults 50 and over. We have to schedule an appointment at a pharmacy or doctor’s office to receive it before heading to Europe next spring. I’ve read that you should try to cross vaccinate with the booster to increase immunity. We’ve had two Pfizer shots so our booster will be for Moderna. In speaking with friends in Mexico, the booster is also becoming available there as well. Several trips planned to Mexico before we head to Europe for a couple of years so hopefully by 2024, we can travel freely.

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