Malacañang said the Philippines would lift its ban on the entry of foreign nationals except for those coming from India or with a history of travel to India starting May 1.
Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the country's task force against COVID-19 approved the entry of foreign nationals but will be subject to the following conditions:
- they must have a valid and existing visa, except for those under Balikbayan Program
- they must have pre-booked accommodation for at least seven nights in an accredited quarantine hotel or facility
- they must be subject to COVID-19 testing on the sixth day of arrival
- they are subject to the maximum capacity of inbound passengers (1,500 per day) at the port and the date of entry
The suspension of entry of foreign nationals started on March 22 when the Philippines was facing a rising number of COVID-19 cases.
"Travel restrictions, however, shall continue to be in effect for those coming from India or those with travel history to India," Roque said.
Starting April 29 until May 14, the Philippines banned the entry of travellers from India amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in the South Asian nation due to a double-mutant variant.
"All these are without prejudice to immigrations, rules, and regulations. The Commissioner of Immigration shall have the exclusive prerogative to decide on the waiver or recall of exclusion orders of foreign nationals, subject to regular reporting to the IATF Secretariat," Roque said.
Last April 27, the Lapu-Lapu City Government Officials appealed to the national government to allow the entry of foreign tourists with complete vaccine shots against COVID-19 as part of its effort to revive its economy.
Mayor Junard Chan requested it at the Laging Handang public briefing on April 27, where Sec. Harry Roque, Health Sec. Francisco Duque III and other key national government officials were present to attend the ceremonial reenactment of the 500th anniversary of the Kadaugan sa Mactan.
Incoming foreign tourists must also undergo a COVID-19 test before flying to the Philippines aside from being fully vaccinated, Chan stressed.
"We are appealing to Secretary (Harry) Roque, (Health) Secretary Francisco Duque III, the IATF head to allow entry of foreigner tourists who are fully vaccinated," he said.
"And prior to departure from their point of origin, to have RT-PCR test. So that the tourism industry of Lapu-Lapu City and the province of Cebu will be back," he added.
In response to the city government's appeal, Roque said they should submit a formal letter of request to the IATF's chairperson, Health Sec. Francisco Duque III.
“Ipararating po natin yan sa IATF. Kaya nga po humingi ako ng liham kay mayor addressed to Secretary Duque, our chairman of the IATF," said Roque.
(We will forward that to the IATF, and with it, we will be asking for a letter addressed to Secretary Duque, our chairman of the IATF.)
Roque also emphasized that the IATF, as a collegial body, has the authority to decide on the fate of Chan's request.
On the other hand, Roque also said that the proposal made by the Lapu-Lapu City's officials looks 'workable.'
“Dahil mukha namang workable dahil ang Lapu-Lapu City has its own airport. Pwede naman magkaroon ng bubble provided yung mga turista ay meron nang bakuna at meron ding PCR Test," Roque explained.
(It seemed workable since Lapu-Lapu City has its airport. Maybe it could have its bubble provided the foreign tourists have been vaccinated and underwent a recent PCR-test.)
Lapu-Lapu City is part of Mactan Island and is home to the country's second busiest airport – the Mactan Cebu International Airport.
"Kailangan lang siguro ang controls para yung ingress and egress from Lapu-Lapu could be controlled," he added.
(But it must also have regulations so the ingress and egress from Lapu-Lapu could be controlled.)
In February, due to the decreasing number of foreign tourists visiting the Philippines amid the pandemic, Department of Tourism OIC Undersecretary Roberto Alabado II said the country lost P400 billion income in 2020.
Foreign tourist arrivals went down by 82% in 2020, from 8.3 million in 2019 to only 1.3 million foreign tourists visiting. The decrease in the number of foreign tourist arrivals has affected 5.7 million jobs in the tourism industry nationwide, Alabado said.
Sources: Inquirer.Net, GMA News Network