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Rules eased on stranded travelers

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:34 AM March 27, 2020

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday said it would temporarily allow holders of visitor’s visas, who have stayed in the country for less than a year, to acquire their emigration clearance certificates (ECCs) at international airports.

An ECC is issued to temporary visitors who have stayed in the country for more than six months, and to holders of residence, work, or student visas, who wish to leave the country for good.

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The idea is to manage “the influx of foreign nationals leaving the country who will be applying to process their ECCs, essentially minimizing physical contact with the traveling public,” said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente in a statement.

He said the BI has also suspended biometrics capturing and fingerprinting, and the issuance of special security registration numbers as requirements for the processing of ECCs, to ensure compliance with physical distancing directives put in place following the Luzon-wide lockdown intended to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

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“We will still conduct derogatory records checking before giving clearance to ensure that any foreign national who wishes to leave the country has no pending obligation with the government,” Morente said.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has meanwhile allowed hotels, inns and similar establishments to accept new bookings of stranded and transiting travelers as well as foreign and domestic tourists amid travel restrictions arising from the expanded community quarantine (ECQ).

Difficulty leaving

In an administrative order dated March 25 and issued on Thursday, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said stranded passengers and tourists, whose flights or rides had been canceled and are having difficulty leaving the country because of ECQ measures, may still book hotel and allied accommodations.

In a text message, she said that as of 12 p.m. Thursday, there remained 1,953 travelers, mostly foreigners, stranded in 14 regions outside Metro Manila.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases earlier allowed hotels and similar establishments to accommodate distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), health workers, employees of companies exempted from the ECQ and long-staying guests.

Aside from inbound OFWs and other Filipino citizens, the Philippines continues to accept its citizens’ foreign spouses and children, foreigners who hold Philippine permanent residency visas, as well as accredited diplomats and officials of international organizations.

But the DOT reminded hotels and similar establishments to comply with the room occupancy conditions set by the Department of Health, with single occupancy rooms for OFWs and health workers.

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Other guests may be accommodated in double occupancy rooms provided beds are at least 2 meters apart with dividers placed between them.

Guests are also required to disinfect the bathroom. They are not allowed to share food and personal and nonpersonal belongings. All trash, food and nonfood, must also be separated. —With a report from Jerome Aning

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TAGS: Bureau of Immigration, ECC, Foreigners, temporary visitors, travelers, visitor's visa
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