PH entry rules further eased for tourists
MANILA, Philippines — The country will open its doors wider to foreign tourists with the further easing of arrival requirements starting April 1.
Under Resolution No. 164-A issued on Thursday, the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) lifted the quota on unvaccinated arriving passengers.
Travelers entering the country now have the option of presenting a negative, laboratory-based antigen test taken within 24 hours before departing from their point of origin.
Before that rule, these passengers were required to submit a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test taken within 48 hours before departure.
“Previously, they [had] to show a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours. Now, it is either of the two, RT-PCR or antigen,” deputy presidential spokesperson Kris Ablan explained at a press briefing on Friday.
‘Top foreign markets’
The resumption of visa issuances by Philippine embassies and consulates will start on April 1 to coincide with the removal of arrival quotas.
The IATF has also allowed the visa-free entry of holders of passports from Hong Kong and Macau for a maximum visit of two weeks.
Moreover, the task force has approved the reciprocal recognition of COVID-19 vaccination certificates from Croatia, Cyprus and Nepal.
These countries, however, were already among the 157 visa-free states whose nationals the IATF had already allowed as of February to visit the Philippines, provided that they had proof of vaccination.
In a statement, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat noted that “our top foreign markets [include these] visa-free countries.”
According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), visitors from South Korea, the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Vietnam and Japan were among the country’s top markets before the pandemic.
“[The] move to further ease our borders and recognize the vaccination certificates of other countries is very important,” Puyat said.
‘Way to recovery’
She acknowledged that “[w]hile our domestic tourists have been the pillar of our recovery, we are … excited to welcome more foreign visitors in the weeks ahead.”
Puyat said “the country’s tourism industry is well on its way to recovery.”
The DOT’s figures as of Wednesday show that the number of arrivals at the country’s main airports increased to 76,736 from 47,715 last week.
Of the latest total, foreign tourists rose from 26,306 to 43,249 in a week’s time, while “balikbayan,” or visiting Filipinos, increased from 21,409 to 33,487 during the same period.
While these numbers are not yet as high as before the pandemic, Puyat said the increase in tourists was still unexpected.
“It’s not big compared to the pre-pandemic levels, [when] we had about 8.28 million … arrivals for the whole year. But we were pleasantly surprised,” she said in a television interview on Thursday.
Puyat said Boracay, Baguio City, Palawan and Batangas remained among the popular destinations in the country.
She also cited a DOT survey that found that these visitors preferred activities in places with open spaces to reduce the chances of COVID-19 transmission. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.