Foreign passengers arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Thursday, March 19 as flights were again allowed amid the enhanced lockdown.
| ManilaTimes.net photo by Rene Dilan

Foreigners will be temporarily barred from traveling to the Philippines starting Sunday, March 22, following the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)’s suspension of visa issuances amid the threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The DFA announced the travel ban on Thursday, March 19, which cancels previously issued visas and those currently being processed for foreigners — such as temporary visitor and tourist visas — from any Philippine Foreign Service post.

“This goes one imperative step forward: a total ban on incoming foreign visitors of all nationalities no exceptions,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter.

However, foreign visitors will still be allowed to leave the country. There is no end date for the new measures, as of press time.

The pronouncement also covers visa-free privileges starting Sunday.

“All visa-free privileges including those based on Visa Waiver Agreements, those under Executive Order 408, s.1960, and for holders of Hong Kong and Macau SAR passports, Macau-Portuguese passports, and British National Overseas passports, are likewise temporarily suspended, effective 22 March 2020,” the department said in its advisory.

Foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals, as well as accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, are exempted from this temporary suspension, the DFA clarified.

“The temporary suspension of visa issuance will deem all previously issued visas canceled, and foreigners with visas issued by Philippine Foreign Service Posts (primarily 9a Temporary Visitor/Tourist visas) will not be allowed entry into the country starting 22 March 2020,” it said.

It added, “This temporary suspension has no impact on foreign nationals that are already in the country or on holders of visas issued by other government agencies.”

PH lifts 72-hour window for outbound flights

On Wednesday, March 18, the government announced that the 72-hour deadline for international travelers to leave the Philippines has been lifted.

The updated announcement from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will allow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), balikbayans, and foreigners to leave the country through any of the ports in Luzon at any time during the “enhanced community quarantine” period, provided they travel only to the airport within 24 hours of the date and time of their departure.

“OFWs, balikbayans, and foreigners leaving for abroad through any of the ports in Luzon shall be allowed to leave the Philippines at any time for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine, provided that proof of international travel itinerary scheduled within 24 hours must be presented,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles confirmed on Wednesday.

The Philippine Department of Transportation on Tuesday had previously given international airports in the country a 72-hour window to accommodate foreigners seeking to leave the Philippines, after which all gateways from the mainland will be closed in compliance with the enhanced community quarantine enforced in Luzon.

Under the new guidelines, Nograles said that departing passengers are allowed to be accompanied by only one person to any international port, who should depart immediately after dropping off the passenger.

The accompanying person must also carry a copy of the e-ticket or itinerary.

Nograles added that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration “may provide transportation services to OFWs intending to leave for abroad.”

“This provision shall not be interpreted to allow outbound travel by Filipinos to jurisdictions where travel restrictions are in place,” he stressed.

Inbound international passengers, meanwhile, are allowed entry, subject to strict immigration and quarantine protocols.

Filipino tourists, however, are barred from leaving the country. The previous travel restrictions for arriving passengers remain in place.

“Our travel restrictions for foreign nationals arriving from China, Hong Kong, Macau, North Gyeongsang including Daegu and Cheongdo of South Korea, Iran, and Italy still stand,” announced Philippine Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, March 16, placed Luzon on an “enhanced community quarantine” to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines.

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