FULLY vaccinated foreign tourists are exempt from the arrivals cap currently being implemented at the Philippines’s premier gateway.
This as the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) informed the foreign and local carriers that “international inbound arrivals at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) shall be increased to a maximum of 5,000 passengers per day beginning 4 February 2022.” The advisory was signed by CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla on February 2, 2022, a copy of which was sent to the BusinessMirror.
Arcilla added, “All airlines are also reminded to ensure strict compliance with the applicable entry requirements and protocols for all its international arriving passengers under relevant IATF resolutions and/or policies. We hereby reiterate the need to comply with the registration to the One Health Pass (OHP) as a requirement prior to boarding the flight. In this regard, airlines are directed to screen and board only those passengers who are compliant with the applicable requirements and protocols for international arriving passengers.”
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), in its Resolution 160-B dated February 3, 2022, said however, “Fully vaccinated foreign nationals shall not be included in the arrival quota set by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and its One-Stop-Shop (OSS).” The OSS oversees the processing of arrivals at the Naia.
BOQ limitations dictate quota
Aviation and government sources continue to rail against the arrivals quota, despite its increase from the earlier 3,000. “Pre-pandemic, there were about 30,000 arrivals per day,” said one source. Sources point to the limitations on the part of Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) as the reason for the cap: “BOQ’s testing capacity is only 5,000 per day.”
BOQ officials have been very vocal since last December of their need for more staff to boost their operations. The issue came up when complaints were raised about the delays in pulling out Covid-positive arrivals from quarantine hotels for transfer to government isolation facilities.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat has also pushed for the increase in the number of OSS-accredited labs to test arriving passengers. She said, she noticed last November, after coming from London where she attended the World Travel Market, “There were only two accredited labs to test arriving passengers: Padlabs (Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory) and Detoxicare.”
All international carriers have to share in the arrivals quota, which sources say, impinge on their profitability as they are unable to fly more passengers into the country. It has also given rise to issues with countries like Dubai, which now limits the number of passengers that can be boarded on carriers bound for Manila. This has forced flag carriers like Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific to reroute their flights to Manila via Clark, Cebu, or Davao. (See, “CAB keeps mum on PHL, Dubai row on arrivals cap,” in the BusinessMirror, December 13, 2021.)
Travel insurance required
The IATF has allowed the entry of fully vaccinated leisure tourists from 157 countries and two Chinese special territories (Hong Kong and Macau) into the Philippines starting February 10, 2022, without quarantining in a hotel.
“The new IATF guidelines indicate, while the country has opened its borders to fully vaccinated business and leisure visitors, it is doing so with utmost care and with full regard for the health and safety of both visitors and the general public,” said Romulo Puyat in a news statement. (See, “PHL reopens to vaxxed tourists from visa-free countries,” in the BusinessMirror, January 28, 2022.)
She stressed that foreign tourists must have travel insurance from reputable insurers with a minimum coverage of US$35,000 for the duration of their stay in the country, to cover for any possible Covid-19 treatment in case they fall ill. Other requirements may be found in https://bit.ly/3rvcsvO
She also reiterated only fully vaccinated foreign visitors will be allowed entry to the country. “Children below 12 years old will be exempted if they are traveling with fully vaccinated foreign parents.”
Parents of unvaccinated minors between 12 and 17 years old must accompany their children during their facility-based quarantine for five days.
“The opening of our borders to eligible foreign visitors and the rebound of the tourism industry can only mean the restoration of the livelihood of millions of Filipinos working in tourism-related establishments and businesses who have been displaced by the pandemic. It will contribute greatly to the eventual revival of the Philippine economy,” said Romulo Puyat.