Filipinos checking in at at the Manila International Airport NAIA
Passengers at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: All Filipinos are now allowed to travel back home, revising the earlier travel restrictions imposed by the Philippines government that only those classified as returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will be allowed to enter the Philippines for one month. from March 22 until April 21.

Harry Roque, official spokesperson of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, clarified on Friday that foreign nationals would still be barred from entering the country effective March 22, 12.01am (Manila time) until April 21, 11.59pm (Manila time).

Daily cap of 1,500 remains

The Philippines government also did not lift the cap on the number of international passengers arriving in Manila. A maximum of 1,500 across all airlines is the daily quota for one month. This has led to Philippine Airlines (PAL) announcing flight cancellations. Further flight suspensions “would be announced soon for the remainder of the stated period once the details are confirmed,” the airline said.

A PAL official in Dubai told Gulf News: “The flight restrictions are part of a series of pandemic control measures announced by (Philippines) authorities.”

Geoffrey Salatan, retail sales manager at a travel agency in Dubai, said: “Flights to the Philippines are still subject to change due to government restrictions, shortage of quarantine facilities and sudden changes in protocol. Flight cancellations are inevitable because of the recent directives regarding in-coming passenger limitations by the (Philippines) government.”

Pandemic-related restrictions

On March 18, the Philippines National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) revised its earlier memorandum dated March 16 regarding pandemic-related restrictions on international arrivals. Previously, the circular had temporarily suspended the entry of returning Filipinos who were not OFWs.

The latest notification issued by the Philippines government. Image Credit: Supplied

The NTF also clarified the exemptions for inbound foreign travellers. From March 22 to April 21, foreigners exempted from travel restrictions are diplomats and members of international organisations and their dependents (those with 9C or 47A2 visas at the time of entry); foreign nationals involved in medical repatriation; foreign seafarers under the ‘Green Lanes’ programme for crew change; foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens with valid visas at the time of entry; and emergency, humanitarian and other analogous cases approved by the NTF.

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Delfin Lorenzana, the NTF chair and National Defence Secretary, reiterated: “The travel of Filipinos and exempted foreign nationals shall be subject to the arrival quota set by the Philippine Department of Transportation.”

Highest single-day cases recorded

Meanwhile, the Philippines on Friday registered 7,103 new COVID-19 cases — the highest increase in a single day, driving nationwide active cases to 73,264 and bringing the total number of infections to 648,066 since the pandemic started.