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PBBM oks easing of stringent travel restrictions

MANLA -- President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has approved the removal of the COVID-19 test requirements for incoming visitors and the lifting of the mask-wearing mandate for indoor settings.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco made the announcement in a press briefing at the Malacañang Palace on October 25, following the Cabinet Meeting with the President.

In line with the President’s vision to facilitate ease of travel and tourist convenience, Secretary Frasco said the direction taken by National Government agencies is towards the liberalization of travel protocols in the country.

“The direction of the Marcos Administration is to lift the remainder of travel restrictions into the Philippines, and that includes easing of our mask mandates to allow our country to be at par with our ASEAN neighbors who have long liberalized their mask mandates,” said Secretary Frasco.

“In addition to this, it was also discussed that the remainder of stringent protocols, such as the requirement of pre-departure testing into the Philippines would also be removed,” added the DOT Chief.

Indoor mask-wearing, Secretary Frasco noted, will still be required in public transport, medical transport and in medical facilities, and will be “highly encouraged” for unvaccinated, individuals with comorbidities, and senior citizens.

The Tourism Secretary also announced that President Marcos Jr. will issue an Executive Order that will allow fully-vaccinated visitors coming to the Philippines to be allowed entry into the country without the COVID-19 test requirement. Meanwhile, unvaccinated guests, will be given the option to take an antigen test 24 hours before travel or upon arrival in the Philippines. This policy will supersede the stringent COVID-19 test and quarantine requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors.

To recall, the National Government announced the removal of the One Health Pass (OHP) to make way for the more traveler-friendly eArrival cards, a joint undertaking of the Department of Health (DOH), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in coordination with the DOT and the Department of Information, Communication and Technology (DICT). The electronic arrival portal aims to simplify the entry procedures for travelers.

Secretary Frasco clarified that per the President’s direction, registration through the eArrival cards shall not be made mandatory prior to boarding. Additionally, special lanes will be provided in the airport for those who are unable to complete the registration process.
“Twenty questions that used to be in place have now been reduced to ten, specifically those that are tourism-related. And as agreed during the meeting, it was clarified that the filling out of the eArrival Card would not be made mandatory as a prerequisite to boarding. In other words, you will be able to fill out the eArrival card at your own convenience prior to departure or upon arrival,” said Secretary Frasco.

Before being presented to the President, the proposals to lift the mask mandates for indoor settings with exceptions, entry of fully vaccinated travelers with no pre-departure testing requirement, and entry of unvaccinated travelers with pre-departure antigen testing or antigen testing upon arrival have been presented to and approved by the Inter-Agency task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

“The overarching direction of the Marcos Administration is to allow our country to convey an openness and a readiness to the world to receive tourists and investments so that we would give our fellow Filipinos an opportunity to regain all the livelihood and losses that were incurred during the pandemic. We are optimistic that with all of these restrictions being lifted by the Marcos Administration, this can only redound to the benefit of the lives of millions of Filipinos as well as the reinvigoration of the tourism industry. In the end, we simply cannot go on in a pandemic perspective because we have to give our country an opportunity to thrive while maintaining basic health protocol on one hand, and safeguarding and protecting livelihood and the economy on the other,” enthused the Tourism Chief.

As of October 24, 2022, the DOT has recorded 1,827, 603 visitor arrivals exceeding the 1.7 million projections for the current year.
The biggest bulk of tourists came from the United States of America at 346,806 or 18.98 percent, followed by South Korea with 250,021 or 13.68 percent, and Australia with 85,986 or 4.70 percent. Canada comes next with 78,366 or 4.29 percent, and the United Kingdom with 69,482 or 3.80 percent arrivals. (DOT)

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