PH temporarily halts entry of foreigners and non-OFW returnees

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 16) — Foreign nationals and non-Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) returnees are temporarily barred from entering the country.

The memorandum circular released by the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF COVID-19) on Tuesday night stated the ban will last from March 20 to April 19.

Exempted from the temporary entry ban to the country are:

- seaman's visa holders

- those involved in medical repatriation and their escort/s that are both endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers and Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) or the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration

- distressed ROFs endorsed by the DFA-OUMWA

- those with emergency, humanitarian, and other analogous cases approved by the NTF COVID-19

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier announced that incoming international flights would be allowed to carry only up to 1,500 passengers per day in a bid to control the new surge in infections in the country.

"Nakikita rin po natin iyong variant, ito po ang isang factor. So, ngayon ang ginawa po natin dahil nakita po natin na iyong ating mga OFW at saka mga ROF at saka mayroon tayong tinatawag na mga foreigner na pumupunta po sa atin dito, so ngayon ang ginawa po natin ay hinigpitan po natin ngayon ang ating inbound passengers. So, ngayon, ini-limit po natin sa 1,500," said Galvez at Malacanang's regular public briefing.

[Translation: We see that the variant is a factor. Now, what we did because we saw that our overseas Filipino workers and ROFs (returning overseas Filipinos) as well as foreigners arriving in the country, what we did is become stricter with inbound passengers. We are setting the limit to 1,500.]

Galvez clarified that the recommendation covered OFWs.

On Tuesday, national carrier Philippine Airlines announced it would be cancelling several flights to and from Manila following a directive from the Civil Aeronautics Board that required international inbound arrivals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport could carry only up to 1,500 passengers starting March 18.

"To comply with the restriction, airlines will need to cancel a number of international flights to and from Manila during the stated March 18 to April 19 period. Philippine Airlines will operate our full international schedule for March 18 but we will be announcing in due course any flight cancellations on other days for the rest of the period," PAL said on their Facebook page.

PAL said the directive would be in place starting 8 a.m. on Thursday until 8 a.m. on April 19.

"Airlines will likewise comply with any directives from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) and concerned authorities on the type of travelers that will be allowed entry into the Philippines within the same March 18 (8 AM) to April 19 (8 AM) period. Please note that certain passenger types will thus need to postpone their Manila-bound travels until after the stated period," PAL added.