THE government is temporarily banning the entry of foreigners to the country to help contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In an advisory on Friday, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said that starting on March 22, only overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), repatriating Filipinos and their foreign spouses and children will be allowed entry to the Philippines during the lockdown.

Foreign government and international organization officials accredited to the Philippines are also exempted from the ban.

This further expands the government’s move last week to extend the Philippine travel ban to people coming from countries that have localized transmission of COVID-19, excluding the mentioned exceptions.

DoTr also said that overseas Filipino workers, balikbayans, and foreign nationals leaving the country through any Luzon port will be allowed throughout the duration of the enhanced community quarantine. Filipino tourists planning to leave the country are not allowed to depart.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is also implementing restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals.

The BI said in a statement on Friday that it is following the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) circular suspending visa issuance and visa-free privileges for foreign nationals.

“We will be implementing it in 48 hours, or 12mn of March 22, 2020 to give ample time to the DFA to inform foreign posts and embassies,” BI Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said.

“We will likewise be temporarily restricting the entry of foreign nationals who have converted to both immigrant and non-immigrant visas, those under visa waiver agreements, as well as special visa holders.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday announced a month-long” enhanced community quarantine” limiting the movement of people in Luzon.

The DoTr said uniformed personnel transporting medical supplies and laboratory specimens related to COVID-19 and other humanitarian assistance are allowed to travel by land, air, and sea.

The department said sweeper flights bringing foreign nationals to airports may continue. Only one person is allowed to bring or fetch a passenger to/from the airport.

“He/she must depart immediately after picking up/dropping off said person. The driver should carry with him/her a copy of the airline ticket of the passenger as proof of conveyance,” the advisory said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines (PAL) will operate a limited number of international flights after the government lifted the 72-hour window for outbound international flights.

In a statement on Friday, PAL said it will operate these flights in response to the government’s call to help foreign tourists return home and overseas Filipino workers return to their place of work. — Jennina P. Ibanez

TAGS: DoTr, foreigners, BI, Immigration,

From March 20 to the end of the month, PAL will have flights between Manila and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, London, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Guam.

PAL said that it may add or reduce flights as needed, and will announce April flights based on developments related to the quarantine.

PAL said that a full restoration of international flights is not currently possible as the suspension of public transport has limited its airport manpower.

“Travel bans and restrictions imposed by various governments have forced the cancellation of some routes and significantly reduced actual travel between countries amid the COVID-19 situation.”

DoTr in a separate advisory on Friday said airport personnel will be allowed to cross Metro Manila checkpoints under the quarantine.

This includes pilots, flight crew, airline ground personnel who conduct airport operations, air traffic services personnel and other personnel of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) personnel who man the help desks.

This also includes airport personnel of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), CAAP, and Luzon International Premiere Airport Development (LIPAD), including but not limited to those who conduct airport operations.