THE Philippine government has opened its borders further to all fully vaccinated leisure tourists from abroad starting April 1.
This was the decision on Thursday by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), paving the way for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to start processing tourist visas for citizens of countries not covered by the government regulations on those with visa-free status.
“This new policy approved by the IATF opens the country to fully vaccinated tourists from all countries, which will further aid the tourism industry on its way to recovery,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat in a message to the BusinessMirror. Also approved is the entry of tourists from Hong Kong and Macau for a period not exceeding 14 days.
The IATF likewise has allowed an alternative option for fully vaccinated foreign tourists to submit a negative laboratory-based antigen test result taken within 24 hours from departure, instead of a negative RT-PCR test result taken 48 hours prior to departure, which was earlier required by the body.
“We thank our colleagues in the IATF for approving more measures that will help sustain the recovery of the tourism sector in the coming months. While our domestic travelers have been the pillar of recovery, we are also excited to welcome more foreign visitors in the coming weeks,” she added.
Romulo Puyat said she was particularly looking forward to more travelers from South Korea and Japan, the country’s top traditional source markets for tourists, due to their recent policy changes.
“Korea and Japan have already lifted the quarantine for their residents upon re-entry to their countries. Since the pandemic, we have been discussing with their governments the possibility of having travel bubbles with certain Philippine leisure destinations. But the obstacle has always been the quarantine for their travelers upon their return,” she explained.
From 10 days, the quarantine for returning Koreans was cut to seven days in January. For Japanese residents, they similarly had to quarantine for 10 days upon their return to their country.
The tourism chief’s planned visits to South Korea and Japan last February had been postponed, but said she hopes to push through with her Japan trip by the weekend. She is supposed to meet with the country’s biggest media partners, tour operators, and travel associations in Japan, as well as its key tourism officials. (See, “Japan, South Korea visitor lanes for vaccinated sought,” in the BusinessMirror, February 22, 2022.)
From February 10, when the Philippines reopened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign tourists from visa-free countries, to March 9, there were 76,736 arrivals from abroad. Of this, foreign tourists accounted for some 56.4 percent or 43,249, while balikbayans (homecoming Filipinos) accounted for 43.6 percent or 33,487, according to data provided by the DOT.
Romulo Puyat said the IATF has also approved the reciprocal recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates from Croatia, Cyprus, and Nepal, which are among the 157 countries whose citizens can enter the Philippines without a visa under Executive Order No. 408.