Boracay tourists can now use saliva RTPCR test for entry requirement

TOURISTS going to Boracay can now use a negative coronavirus result through saliva testing for entry, the task force managing the island announced Thursday. Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, chair of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, made the announcement through a virtual briefing from the island. The Department of Tourism (DoT), in a statement, said it welcomes the approval of the alternative testing option, which costs less and is not invasive. Under the approved policy, saliva testing should only be taken through the Philippine Red Cross or other laboratories with such accreditation from government health institutions. The DoT said it has also recommended to the national task force handling the coronavirus response to relax age restrictions for domestic tourism by allowing those below 15 and above 65 to travel for leisure purposes. At the same time, the DoT reiterated its constant reminder on responsible travel, which means strictly following health safety protocols “to protect both the tourists, tourism workers and the residents of host communities.”

Cagayan Valley Medical Center chief appeals to private hospitals to handle mild COVID cases

THE head of the Cagayan Valley Medical Center (CVMC) has appealed to private hospitals to admit patients with suspected or mild symptoms of the coronavirus as the government-run regional facility is now 100% occupied. In a statement from the Cagayan provincial office on Thursday, CVMC Chief Glenn Matthew Baggao said their ward for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is currently handling 126 confirmed patients, “the highest” number recorded since the start of the pandemic. “We already added rooms but because of the increase in patients, we really have no more space, we cannot accept more… and it’s the patients who will suffer,” he said in Filipino. The doctor also called on authorities to monitor private hospitals, which are mandated to allocate at least 30% of their bed capacity to COVID-19 cases. “The supposed 30% allocation in private and government hospitals in the region, especially here in Tuguegarao City, is no longer being complied with,” he said. Apart from the confirmed cases, the hospital also has 38 suspected patients awaiting test results. As of Mar. 16, Cagayan Valley has recorded 10,173 coronavirus cases, of which 1,143 are active, 8,820 recovered, and 202 died. The region, with Tuguegarao City as center, is composed of the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and Batanes. — MSJ

Davao school brings non-digital ‘smart boxes’ to senior high students for hands-on training

A PRIVATE school in Davao specializing in hospitality, tourism, and culinary courses has partnered with the Department of Education to bring hands-on training to senior high school students at their homes through “smart boxes” that are not of the digital kind. “The delivery of skills training became more challenging during the pandemic. Schools were closed and all training delivery is done online or through modules delivered in homes of students who do not have internet connections. Together with my academic team, we needed to reset and re-calibrate our strategies,” said Joji Ilagan-Bian, chair of the JIB International Schools and founder of MinTVET, a network of technical-vocational schools in Mindanao. As tech-voc skills are best learned beyond reading modules, Ms. Bian and her team developed the JIB Smart boxes, which contain materials specific to a course — such as a cocktail glass and ingredients for those learning bartending, or protective gloves for shielded metal arc welding. “It was fulfilling to see the students wearing their JIB t-shirts and their chefs toques and aprons on screen as they do their assessments in their homes using the JIB SMART Boxes,” Ms. Bian said in an interview. The project is under the Education department’s Joint Delivery Voucher Program-Technical Vocational Learning program, which provides senior high students enrolled in public schools the opportunity to get tech-voc specialization through partner institutions such as JIB schools. The courses on offer include baking, pastry production, housekeeping, bartending, food and beverage services, and welding. — Maya M. Padillo