Vaccinations, Boracay, & embassy bottle openers

We could potentially travel to another part of the Philippines now that there are eased restrictions on domestic travel. Or we could leave the country (but where would we go?). Or we could stay right where we are.

Short-term plans are easier to make these days than long-term travel plans. A lot of that has to do with a vaccination update.

Vaccinations

The big vaccination update for us is simply this: there is no update. It is not even an option for us yet.

There still is no immunization plan for foreigners like us. We are in the Philippines on tourist visas.

Not that we are in a rush to get vaccinated by experimental science, but we would like to continue on our travels. The jab would make it easier for those long-term travel plans without having to worry about quarantines and tests and other hoops and expenses.

Government officials have acknowledged the need to make a plan for foreigners, but we are a low priority compared to frontliners, elderly, the indigent, and tourism workers.

In a country with 108+ million people, there are only – at this moment – 1 million vaccines in the entire country. And more than half of those jabs are Sinovac, which is about 50 percent effective against preventing COVID-19.

Of course, more jabs are on the way. Eventually.

Accordingly, herd immunity by 2023 in this country is the goal. A lofty one at that, IMO.

Travel options

We decided to stay in the Philippines for another month – the month of April. We arrived in this country from Indonesia in November 2019, a few months before the pandemic started.

In April, we’ll stick to mainland Malay (for now), where we have been since March 16, 2020.

After April? We look at everything every few days.

I sure do miss my old travel life.

Boracay travel

Domestic tourists

The Philippine federal government has further eased requirements for domestic tourists – but not (yet) for Boracay.

Federal mandates for police clearance, health and hotel certificates, swab tests are gone. the LGUs decided to keep all the old requirements in place.

Again: nothing has changed (yet) for Boracay. Domestic tourists still need swab tests, QR codes, and certificates.

However, mainland Malay no longer requires a swab test.

Now, domestic travelers coming into Aklan Province — but NOT Boracay — apparently can spit on a strip. Saliva tests have been approved in place of nasal swab tests for mainland visits.

Saliva tests are said to be several thousand pesos cheaper than nasal swabs.

By the way, residents of Aklan (us) only need a QR code, a temperature check and identification to go to Boracay. That hasn’t changed (yet) either.

Foreign tourists

The Philippines is still closed to foreign tourists. There are certain foreigners allowed in, however, such as spouses of Filipinos, foreigners with business investments in this country or other specialized visas.

However, the Aklan governor asked the feds to send 40,000 doses of vaccines to Boracay to immunize tourism workers.

The governor is pushing for the vaccines, and rationalizing that once everyone has a jab, international tourism can restart.

There has not (yet) an official response to the governor’s request, even though it was printed in the federal government’s official “news” agency.

Fish fights with China continue

An important side note. We also continue to watch developments on territorial claims by China in the South China and West Philippine seas.

The Biden administration seems to be strengthening NATO ties to stand against China’s militarization of the area, for which I’m glad.

At its core level, this is a cold war for resources — namely fish and oil.

Several nations, including Germany, France, and Canada, are sending warships to join the U.S. in the disputed area claimed by several nations, including the Philippines and China.

Considering China has donated the first round of vaccines in the Philippines, and Chinese tourism helped the economy here, the Philippines is in a delicate situation.

Embassy bottle openers

I am in a Facebook group for American expats living in the Philippines. Another member recently posted about his first pandemic trip to the American embassy in Manila.

He reported his business was handled efficiently and competently. And, just as important to this American man was the gift embassy staff gave him, pictured below.

Yep, that’s right – a magnet bottle opener! (Pictures used with permission from Mr. Tubbs.)

As the satisfied citizen wrote in the group: “It’s nice when your embassy understands you. And it works. Good job, USA.”

That might be a score – but I consider this next one a miss.

The U.S. State Department will not help its private citizens abroad get immunized.

“The U.S. government does not plan to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to private U.S. citizens overseas. Please follow host country developments and guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination. U.S. Veterans currently receiving healthcare benefits from the VA Manila Outpatient Clinic will continue to receive e-mail updates about COVID-19 vaccinations directly from the VA Clinic.”

U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

Bleh.

But let’s end on a bright note.

In a nod to keeping the Philippines aligned with strategic American interests against communist China, the Biden administration agreed to give $100 million dollars to the Philippine education system over the next five years.

To that, I say: Good job, USA.

Thanks for reading, “Vaccinations, Boracay, & embassy bottle openers.”

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