FULLY VACCINATED foreign tourists from visa-free countries will be allowed to enter the Philippines starting February 10.
In a news briefing on Friday, Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) made this decision on the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) assurance that “100 percent of tourism workers are now vaccinated.”
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) web site, the list of visa-free countries includes top tourism markets of the Philippines, including Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. There are about 160 countries on the visa-free status list, which is available on https://bit.ly/33VUNUQ.
The IATF also removed the color-classification of countries based on their Covid cases and now classifies foreign nationals based on their vaccination status. “No unvaccinated foreign nationals will be allowed to enter the country,” stressed Nograles in Filipino.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat told the BusinessMirror, her agency would be threshing out the details with partner agencies like the DFA as well as with the private sector regarding the country’s reopening to foreign travelers. “For unvaccinated Filipinos [i.e., balikbayans], they will still have to quarantine in a hotel for five days. But for unvaccinated children of vaccinated Filipinos, we hope they will be allowed to enter the country without quarantining,” she said.
Negative RT-PCR required
Vaccinated leisure travelers from visa-free countries will only have to present a negative RT-PCR test result taken 48 hours prior to their departure to the Philippines.
There are 14,474 rooms available for leisure travelers in the National Capital Region alone, of which 1,462 rooms are in staycation hotels; 5,469 in regular hotels; and 7,543 in multiple-use, non-quarantine hotels. “We expect all the quarantine hotels to shift to accepting leisure travelers,” said Romulo Puyat.
The move to reopen to tourists was applauded by local tourism stakeholders. In a news statement, Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose C. Clemente III said: “We are pleased with the announcement of the IATF allowing fully-vaccinated foreign nationals into the Philippines starting February 10. Our borders have been closed for almost two years now and the situation for a majority of the tourism stakeholders have become untenable already. This development gives us hope to finally restart our industry.
“That said, we continue to remind our stakeholders, local government units [LGUs], and other relevant agencies to continue enforcing health and safety protocols,” he stressed.
In a separate news statement, Romulo Puyat said, “We at the DOT are very thankful to our partners in the IATF 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.” (See, “Reopen PHL to vaccinated international travelers—DOT,” in the BusinessMirror, January 27, 2022.)
Carry proof of vaccination
“With years of coordination between national agencies, industry stakeholders, and the various 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.
Based on the IATF guidelines, leisure travelers from visa-free countries 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 also carry proof of vaccination against Covid-19, such as vaccination certificates issued by the World Health Organization, VaxCertPH of the DOH (available at https://vaxcert.doh.gov.ph), and a national/state digital certificate of a foreign government which has accepted VaxCertPH under a reciprocal arrangement unless otherwise permitted by the IATF.
Image credits: Jonathan L. Mayuga