Subject to a number of conditions, some foreign nationals will be allowed to enter the Philippines starting Aug. 1, Malacanang announced.

This as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to run its course globally, and as the health department points to international travel as a source of the disease locally.

In a statement made on Friday, Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has approved the entry of foreign nationals beginning next month.

“The IATF, however, set conditions prior to the entry of these foreign nationals. They must first have valid and existing visas at the time of the entry. This means no new entry visa shall be accepted,” he said.

In an interview with reporters on Friday, Mr. Roque said that the foreign nationals are those “na kinokonsidera nila na ang kanilang tahanan ay nandito sa Pilipinas dahil sila ay mga permanent residents (who consider their home as being here in the Philippines because they are permanent residents).”

The foreign visitors who will be allowed in are those with existing or long-term visas at the time of entry. They include permanent residents, the spouse or unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of a Philippine citizen, a child of foreign parents born during a temporary visit abroad of a mother who has permanent residency, and a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has been naturalized in a foreign country.

Mr. Roque added that since returning Filipinos will be given priority, the number of foreigners entering will be limited by the maximum capacity for arriving passengers in the port and date of entry.

The arriving foreigners should pre-book in a quarantine facility and a COVID-19 testing provider

The announcement that foreign nationals would be allowed to enter the country came as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines topped 60,000.

In a Friday briefing held prior to the release of the Palace statement, the Department of Health said that based on its study, international travel was one of the factors for the local outbreak as the first case of COVID-19 in the Philippines back in January was a Chinese tourist. The influx of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) during the early months of the lockdown also contributed to the spread.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said, “Alam natin at the outset, international travel ang nagcause ng pagpasok ng mga inpeksyon. And then slowly lumiliit ang international travel, pumapasok na ang OFWs na umuuwi sa ating bansa noong March and April, nakakuha na siya ng certain portion dito sa ating pag-aaral na contributing factors.”

(We knew at the outset, international travel caused the entry of the infection. And then, when international travel became limited, more OFWs entered the country during March and April, and our studies showed that a certain portion of these were contributing factors)

Those who enter the Philippines from other countries are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine. — Gillian M. Cortez