BI clarifies: PH only banning travelers not flights from COVID-19-hit areas

Robie de Guzman   •   March 16, 2020   •   874

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration(BI) on Monday clarified that its implementation of the country’s travel restrictions against the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) involves limiting the entry of people from areas of concern and not banning flights.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the clarification following rumors circulating online that flights from China have been continuously arriving in the Philippines despite travel restrictions in place.

He said that in one such viral social media post, some people questioned the arrival of a Xiamen Air flight that landed in the Philippines last March 10.

The BI chief said the flight in question only carried four passengers: a Filipino citizen, and three permanent residents, all belonging to the exempted classes.

“We are not banning flights, but are rather restricting people coming from areas of concern,” said Morente.

He clarified that some flights to and from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea still continue to operate as they may carry exempted classes that may fly in and out of the country.

In BI’s most recent travel restriction announcement, passengers from China, Macau, Hong Kong and North Gyeongsang in South Korea are not allowed to enter the country.

However, Filipinos and their spouse or children, foreigners with Philippine permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps are exempted from the said restriction.

“Flights that come from the restricted countries carry either Filipinos or those exempted from the ban,” said Morente.

He called on the public to stop spreading false information amid COVID-19 pandemic fears as this only adds to unnecessary panic.

“Stop spreading false information. Always check and double-check information you see online, and trust only official sources,” he said.

The BI also said that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bound for Mainland China except Hubei province and Wuhan City may now depart as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) last March 12, provided that they sign an undertaking stating that they are aware of the risks involved in their travel.

OFWs, permanent residents and their dependents, and student visa holders may continue to fly out to Hong Kong, Macau, and North Gyeongsang.

The bureau also announced the implementation of the expanded travel restriction for Iran and Italy starting March 16.

Arriving passengers from both countries will be required to present a medical certificate issued within the last 48 hours stating that they are COVID-2019-free.

Also exempted are Filipinos and their spouse or children, foreigners with permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps. Those exempted will likewise be endorsed to the Bureau of Quarantine for the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“We are not after certain nationalities. This virus does not pick races. We are after travel patterns,” he said.

“Hence, Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau Nationals, South Koreans, Iranians, and Italians who have not been to the areas of concern in the last 14 days are not part of the restrictions,” he clarified. “But any foreigner, regardless of nationality, who come from these areas of concern will not be allowed to enter,” he added.

Nearly 3,000 Chinese nationals ordered to leave PH for violating visa rules – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 2,736 Chinese nationals have been ordered to leave the country for violating the conditions of their visa, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Tuesday.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that from January to October, Chinese nationals who were granted visas upon arrival (VUA) but failed to leave on their departure date were given orders to leave.

Under the VUA system, visa grantees are not allowed to extend their stay beyond 30 days.

“More than half of those who were ordered to leave were blacklisted from the country,” Morente said in a statement.

“While some were unable to leave due to circumstance, following the cancellation of many flights due to the pandemic, those who stayed without sufficient basis were included in our blacklist,” he added.

The VUA program, a joint project of the tourism and justice departments, was launched in 2017 to attract Chinese tourists and tour groups to travel and stay in the Philippines without the need to apply for visas at Philippine consulates in their places of origin.

Travelers may apply for a VUA through tour operators accredited by the Department of Tourism.

“VUA arrivals account for only around 5% of total Chinese arrivals in the country,” Morente said.

“Most of those who arrived already secured their entry visas from our foreign posts abroad,” he added.

The implementation of the VUA was suspended in January due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.

Afghanistan, Laos lift border restrictions on Filipino travelers – DFA

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Two Asian countries Laos and Afghanistan have lifted their restrictions on inbound Filipino travelers, says the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The new ruling, however, is subject to flight availability and medical protocols.

The DFA on Monday (Oct. 19) noted that Malaysia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Tajikistan, and Hong Kong have imposed stricter medical protocols and visa regulations for those who are exempt from entry restrictions.

Mongolia’s borders remain open but inbound travelers in the country are now required to present negative COVID-19 test results and must have all applicable documents to support their visa status.

Japan, on the other hand, has gradually opened up inbound entry for students, dependents and technical interns but still prohibits entry of short-stay travelers, including tourists, the DFA said.

Also, previous information on travel restrictions for other countries and regions remain the same.

“In view of these updates, the DFA reminds the public that information contained in the infographics is subject to change without prior and sufficient public notice,” the agency said.

The DFA reminds travelers that it is always best to check ahead of travel dates with airlines, as well as with relevant Embassies or Consulates before booking a ticket and before departure.

Immigration employees showing COVID-19 symptoms to get free swab tests

Robie de Guzman   •   October 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Employees exhibiting novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be provided with free RT-PCR tests, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Monday.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the effort is to ensure the health and safety of the bureau’s personnel.

“Being frontliners, BI personnel are one of the most at risk as we are in close contact with numerous people every day in the performance of our duties,” he said.

BI Deputy Commissioner Aldwin Alegre, who chairs the BI COVID Task Force, said the swab testing will be conducted through the help of partner agencies.

“We have received allocation for swab kits from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Local Government Unit of Manila,” Alegre said.

“We are very thankful for their support, and this will go a long way in our fight against Covid,” he added.

Alegre said priority will be given to symptomatic employees, as well as those who came in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Testing for BI employees will be conducted at the Palacio de Maynila, Manila Health Office, and Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros.

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