Direct flights between the Philippines and Israel before the end of the year are in the pipeline, Israeli Ambassador to Manila Rafael Harpaz said Friday.
“We would like very much for the Filipino tourists to be back to Israel. The Philippine Airlines already informed us that they are planning to start a direct flight to Israel towards the end of the year,” Harpaz said in an interview.
There’s no timeline yet when tourism exchanges between the Philippines and Israel would resume, but he said the deployment of Filipino caregivers continues despite the pandemic.
“Actually, every day we see new caregivers because there is a demand. So they are flying to Israel and when they get there, they also get the vaccine immediately,” Harpaz said. “We don’t have a quota (on deployment) but it depends on the demand. Because our population is getting older and older, the demand is getting high. We also have from other countries but the demand is high for Filipino caregivers.”
In 2019 alone, about 35,000 Filipino tourists visited Israel, while more than 30,000 overseas Filipinos are working there as caregivers.
At present, there is no agreement between the Philippines and Israel for a travel bubble setup, but Harpaz said he is hopeful that the two nations’ tourism exchanges would soon resume.
He added that several Filipino tour operators are interested to bring travel groups once Israel fully reopens.
“They’re waiting. There’s so many tour operators in the Philippines who are eager to take groups to Israel because it’s a big tourist destination for Filipinos,” Harpaz said. “The Israelis are also eager. The businessmen are eager to return to the Philippines. They want to go to Banawe, Palawan, Siquijor, and all those wonderful places. Let’s hope that it will soon work out.”
Israel is opening up its borders to foreign tourists under a travel bubble setup, with the vaccinated population no longer required to undergo a long period of quarantine.
But for now, the vaccines that Israel recognizes for this arrangement are Pfizer and Moderna.
It has so far signed a travel bubble agreement with Cyprus and Greece.
“We are moving slowly with more countries because we want to have tourism back and business back,” he said. SOVEREIGNPH