By Jeanne Michael Penaranda
MANILA –Good news to Filipino travellers and foreigners, especially those from countries which are the biggest sources of tourists to the Philippines!
The Philippine government has decided that fully-vaccinated international travelers from more than 150 countries with visa-free entry to the Philippines like the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia and returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) will no longer be required to quarantine, but must present a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test results.
Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles made the announcement in a Malacanang briefing, adding the new protocols on the entry, testing and quarantine for fully vaccinated returning overseas Filipinos, regardless of their country of origin, will take effect starting February 1 and February 10 for leisure travelers.
Nograles said the new protocols were based on the recommendations of the Task Force on Covid-19 New Variants, as well as the sub-technical working group on data analytics.
Based on IATF Resolution No. 159, foreign tourists will be allowed to enter the country, provided that their passports are valid for at least six months at the time of arrival, and they possess outbound tickets to their country of origin or next country of destination.
They must carry “proofs of vaccination” against Covid-19 that are recognized by the IATF-EID. They include certificates of vaccination issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), VaxCertPH of the Department of Health, and a national/state digital certificate of a foreign government that has accepted VaxCertPH under a reciprocal arrangement unless otherwise permitted by the IATF.
Children below 18 years of age are exempted from the requirement of full inoculation and providing proof of vaccination status prior to boarding.
Under the new protocols, they would no longer be required to observe mandatory facility-based quarantine but should self-monitor for any sign or symptom for seven days with the first day being the date of arrival.
They, however, must present a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test result taken within 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.
Nograles said international travelers must present proofs of Covid-19 vaccination, such as the World Health Organization International Certificates of Vaccination and Prophylaxis, VaxCertPH, or national/state digital certificates from foreign governments which has accepted VaxCertPH under a reciprocal arrangement, unless otherwise permitted by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“[They] shall be required to report to the local government unit of destination upon the manifestation of symptoms, if any,” Nograles said.
The Philippines has also temporarily suspended its “green,” “yellow,” and “red” Covid-19 risk classifications for countries, territories and jurisdiction due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Under IATF Resolution No. 159, the unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or individuals whose vaccination status cannot be independently validated shall be required to present a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.
They would also undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of their negative RT-PCR test taken on the 5th day.
They will have to undergo home quarantine until the 14th day, with the date of their arrival being the first day.
The LGUs of destination and their respective Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams are tasked with monitoring arriving passengers undergoing home quarantine.
As for children below 12 years of age who can’t be vaccinated, they will follow the quarantine protocol applied to the parent or guardian accompanying them.
The country’s upcoming reopening to foreign leisure travelers would restore jobs lost and businesses forced to shut down during the pandemic, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).
Starting February 10, the Philippines will allow fully vaccinated international tourists from visa-free countries, provided that they present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.
To date, a total of 157 countries enjoy visa-free entry privileges to the Philippines, including some of its top tourist markets prior to the pandemic such as South Korea, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States, and Germany.
“We at the DOT are very thankful to our partners in the IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) for approving our proposal to allow the entry of foreign leisure travelers. The Department sees this as a welcome development that will contribute significantly to job restoration, primarily in tourism-dependent communities, and in the reopening of businesses that have earlier shut down during the pandemic,’’ Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.
“With years of coordination between national agencies, industry stakeholders, and the various local government units (LGUs) to prepare our destinations for tourism in the new normal, we are confident that we will be able to keep pace with our Asean neighbors who have already made similar strides to reopen to foreign tourists,” she added.