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Philippines welcomes back international travellers

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Ater being closed to foreign travellers for almost two years, the Philippines ended its border closure on February 10, 2022.

According to tourism officials, they welcomed close to 200 foreign tourists who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on February 10. Since then, staff working at the NAIA terminals observed a growing number of foreigners and balikbayans arriving daily through the country’s main airport.

The Philippines now joins other Southeast Asian nations that have eased travel restrictions hoping to save the tourism industry that has suffered since early 2020 due to the COVID -19 pandemic.

Travellers need proof of full vaccination and a negative RT-PCR test within 48 hours before boarding a flight from the country of origin. They are no longer required to quarantine upon arrival.

These rules apply to all arrivals – even to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos, or balikbayans.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said that she’s optimistic the country is now on the road to economic recovery, and that the move will help millions of Filipinos in the tourism sector to recover their jobs lost during the pandemic. Almost half of the 110 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated.

Good news for balikbayans

Arriving balikbayans travelling with a spouse and children are now exempted from presenting an outbound ticket, according to Dana Sandoval, spokesperson of the Bureau of Immigration (BI). However, they should be registered online with One Health Pass prior to boarding their flight to the Philippines like all other inbound passengers.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) recently exempted the outbound ticket requirement for returning overseas Filipinos and their families.

“This adjusted policy allows those arriving under a balikbayan status to better enjoy their one-year visa-free privilege,” said Morente.

Balikbayans, as defined by the BI, are former Filipinos who have been naturalized to any of the 157 countries under Executive Order No. 408, s. of 1960 as amended.

A balikbayan is entitled to a one-year visa-free entry, which they can extend to their spouse and children if travelling to the Philippines together with them.

Family members of Filipinos not included in the list of visa-free countries, on the other hand, are required to secure an entry visa prior to their arrival.