19 January 2022 – Thank you very much, Ria, for the introduction, Usec. Doy Bringas for the welcome remarks. To our dear Secretary and our chairman of the IATF, the Secretary of Health, Sec. Francisco Duque III. Sir, it’s a pleasure, Sir. Thank you for joining us. Also, to our very capable and very super secretary also, our Secretary of DOST, Fortunato “Boy” Dela Pena. Sec. Boy, thank you again for joining us. To all our colleagues in government, Undersecretaries, Regional Directors, DirectoRs, to my friends from the private sector who are in attendance today, magandang magandang araw po sa inyong lahat.
A Chinese proverb is commonly quoted saying this, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But because of this COVID situation, although this proverb has highlighted the importance of starting a journey, however because of our situation today, this journey normally fails to start. Not only because of the perils of our health situation due to the pandemic, but because of the different underlying permits, requirements, and systems that we are now facing because of the different government offices and local government units doing their best to ensure that the health of the people is never at stake.
The right to travel is part of the liberty of which a Citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law. It is part and parcel of the guarantee of freedom of movement that this constitution, our constitution affords every citizen. This was eloquently explained by the case of the Supreme Court by the case of Genuino versus De Lima. It also highlighted that in our Bill of Rights, it says that the right to travel may be impaired only in the interest of national security, public safety, public health, or as may be provided by law. The right to travel may only be impaired by law that concerns national security, public safety, and public health. This is the high level of security that has been given to each and everyone’s right to travel cannot be overstated by our constitution. But we do not live in ideal situation or ideal times today. We indeed live in a very, very challenging and a once-in-a-life-time situation because of this pandemic that really imperils the public health and the public safety. But not only because it is rightfully ours that we need to continue to ensure that people despite this pandemic, are still able to travel. The science would also bells-out that stress of work in daily demands can actually distract us from what we find to be actually meaningful and interesting by going out to different travels. This is actually one of the reasons why mental health during this pandemic is also an issue that people are taking up.
Just to share that last week, ARTA officially launched the pilot implementation of the Unified Logistics Pass (ULP), a unified Quick Response (QR) code that will facilitate the unhampered movement of trucks for hire that also deliver basic goods and necessities across the country. As part of our ongoing efforts to provide better services to the Filipinos, we are now going to launch the Joint Memorandum Circular on Streamlining of Requirements and Processes for Local Travel today.
In the wake of the pandemic, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in our daily routines. It changed the way we work, the way that we conduct our business, the way that we go about our daily lives, and even the way that we go about our leisure activities, primary of which is travel and tourism. Traveling is said to have a variety of beneficial effects on people’s mental health. It is said to be a way of relieving stress and also, it boosts happiness and satisfaction while also making us healthier and being able to give a wonderful bonding time for the family. However, since the emergence of COVID 19, many of the people have preferred to stay at home rather than to risk themselves by traveling in the different parts of our country.
One of the areas that has been greatly affected is tourism. In the Philippines, tourism’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product in 2019 was at 12.8%, but with the weak travel demand due to the pandemic, it fell to a measly 5.4% in 2020. This is not only exclusive to the Philippines; this is also applicable across the different countries of the world. Aside from the immediate priority of mitigating the effects of the pandemic, the government is now establishing a “new normal” for the tourism industry as well. Hence, we are providing a service that would help reboot our tourism and travel industry in the Philippines, provide employment at the same time, and of course, encourage a safe, swift, and a smart travel experience for every Filipino and everyone who is in our territories.
What is in it for our countrymen through this Joint Memorandum Circular? It will now be easier for them or for each and every one to apply for the travel permits as the requirements among the different LGUs will also be streamlined and harmonized with each other. Hindi na po sa makatuwid dapat mahirapan ang atin pong mga kababayan na magbigay ng iba’t ibang mga rekwisitos kada bayan at kada lungsod na madaraanan. Halimbawa na lamang po ang naranasan po ni Mang Jose nung kamakailan. Kinakailangan po niya na umuwi sa kanilang probinsya. Kaya lulan ho ng pampasaherong bus ay kinakailangan po n’yang dumaan sa isang lalawigan bago makarating sa kanyang bayan. Hinanapan po s’ya lamang ng resulta ng kanyang RT-PCR at acceptance letter sa kanyang barangay na kanya pong pupuntahan. Subalit noong s’ya po’y pauwi, na s’ya po ay nag-iba ng ruta na daraanan at dumaan po sya sa kabilang lalawigan ay laking gulat po n’ya na lamang na siya naman po ay hinahanapan ng iba pong mga rekwisitos katulad ng vaccination card at iba pa pong mga requirements that is exclusive in that jurisdiction and in that LGU. Another example ay ang naranasan po ni Aling Dessa at Aling Nerie na pumunta po sa kani-kanilang mga probinsya upang makasama ang kanila pong mga kapamilya noong kapaskuhan at kina-kailangan po nilang mag-register at mag-download ng kanilang QR Code lamang.
Now, it is clear that this JMC actually intends to streamline the process of local travel by ensuring that all LGUs are now enrolled in our S-PaSS and we need to strictly enforce the same. Problems with varying requirements imposed on our travelers when simply passing through the LGU shall also be resolved by only requiring travelers to comply with the requirements of the point of destination LGU. Contact tracing will also be easier because all applications are also interoperable. Further streamlining will be accomplished through the interconnection of various systems and also by making it easier and faster to secure the requirements for the travel permit.
With this, ang atin pong Mang Jose will no longer need to provide different requirements for different LGUs or provinces. It would also be as swift and safe as the experience of Aling Dessa and Aling Nerie. Ang lahat po ng atin pong mga ginagawa ay para po sa ating mga Pilipino na patuloy nating kasamang laban dito po sa dagok ng delubyong pandemya na ito. Ang amin pong ahensya, ang Anti-Red Tape Authority will continue to work and improve the efficiency of government services while also making it easier for the people to access and to help the government to make it better for us in this new normal. We are inspired by our once-in-a-life-time leader, our dear President, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte who has always instructed us in government to ensure to make the lives of the people more comfortable and [easier].
Muli po, ang tren po ng reporma laban po sa red tape ay pabilis na nang pabilis. At ang sinuman pong humarang sa atin pong tren na sabay-sabay po nating sinasakyan ay tiyak pong masasagasaan. Marami pong salamat sa lahat po ng tumulong. Congratulations to all our government agencies. And again, stay safe and God bless us all.