BI lifts travel restrictions

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) will lift the antigen test requirement for travelers leaving the Philippines starting November 1.

In a statement on Sunday, the bureau said it would implement the latest ruling of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

The test will still be done if the traveler’s country of destination requires a negative coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) test certificate.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the other requirements imposed by the IATF-EID for outbound travel were still in place.

“A round-trip ticket will still be required for those who will be leaving under a tourist visa,” he noted.

Travelers also need to sign a declaration acknowledging the risks of traveling, which will be given to them by the airline when they check in.

In the meantime, restrictions for arriving passengers have been partially lifted. Starting November 1, foreigners with visas pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 226, as amended by Republic Act 8756; those with 47(a)2 visas; and those visas issued by the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority, as well as the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, will be allowed to enter the country.

Visas under EO 226 are required of personnel or executives of multinational companies in the Philippines;, 47(a)2 visas are granted by the Department of Justice to special non-immigrants, and Aurora and Subic-issued visas are for foreigners working in special economic zones.

Previously, only Filipinos, their spouse and minor children; foreign children with special needs of Filipinos; foreign parent of minor Filipinos; and foreign parent of Filipino children with special needs were allowed to enter the country.

Tourists are still required to secure an entry visa from Philippine embassies or consulates, prior to arrival.

Accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crewmembers, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas, and foreigners with long-term visas are allowed.

Immigration Port Operations chief Candy Tan stressed that both departing and arriving travelers are still required to undergo regular immigration inspection and present documents needed for their travel.

“Arriving passengers are also required to have a pre-booked accredited quarantine facility before they arrive, and are still subject to the maximum capacity of inbound passengers set by airport authorities,” she said.

“After immigration inspection, arriving passengers will proceed to the one stop shop at our airports, where they will be tested and referred to their assigned quarantine facility,” she added.

Recently, the IATF-EID allowed Filipinos on non-essential travel to leave. The BI, however, reported that the number of Filipino travelers under a tourist visa “did not increase significantly despite the policy change.”

In a related development, a pass-through permit (TPP) would soon be required that would allow authorized persons to enter an area with restricted travel guidelines, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Sunday.

LtGen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the PNP’s Joint Task Force Covid Shield, said the TPP could be secured by authorized persons outside residence (APORs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs).

He noted that the TPP is different from the travel authority, since no requirement is needed.

The permit “will be presented to policemen manning the quarantine control points, or border control checkpoints, to allow them to pass the travel restrictions being implemented in local government units with restricted status,” Eleazar said in a statement.

Several local government units (LGUs) have adopted an “unrestricted travel policy,” in which APORs and non-APORs, and LSIs, will no longer be required to obtain a travel authority.

Some LGUs, however, chose to maintain their travel restrictions amid the continuous spread of Covid-19.

To obtain a travel authority, the APOR must first secure a medical clearance certificate from his or her city or municipal health office. There must also be prior coordination between the traveler’s LGU of origin and LGU destination.

The TPP can also be obtained from police stations.

“In order to ensure hassle-free travel, non-Apors should secure a TPP before their travel because they might be barred from passing through an LGU or LGUs with restricted travel policy. The TPP will spare them from this kind of scenario,” Eleazar said.

PNP chief Camilo Cascolan had directed police commanders to ensure that the TPP is made available upon request, “but they should maintain a record for reference,” Eleazar added.

Cascolan also called on PNP units and LGUs that no longer have travel restrictions not to deny entry to travelers, even without a travel authority or TPP.

Both TPP and travel authority are required in areas under the general community quarantine and the modified general community quarantine.

The TPP, however, does not apply in areas that are still under the more strict enhanced community quarantine and the modified enhanced community quarantine.

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