Immigration may deny Chinese nationals from Wuhan visas on arrival

Immigration may deny Chinese nationals from Wuhan visas on arrival
A young girl wears a facemask while standing with her luggage at the West Kowloon rail station in Hong Kong on January 23, 2020. The international finance hub has been on high alert for the mystery SARS-like virus ever since it first emerged within the Chinese city of Wuhan, killing 17 people so far.
AFP / Roslan Rahman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:49 p.m.) —  The Bureau of Immigration will deny visas upon arrival for Chinese nationals coming from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of a new virus outbreak that has claimed at least 17 lives, a document obtained by Philstar.com suggests.

Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval, in a text message, said there is no such memo but that the bureau "has been denying applications for [visitors upon arrival] for tour groups who will be flying in from Wuhan, following the announcement of the Civil Aeronautics Board to suspend all direct flights from Wuhan to the Philippines."

According to the document, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente approved the recommendation of Ruben Casibang Jr., officer-in-charge for BI’s Special Operations Communications unit, on the “denial of all VUA applications of [People’s Republic of China] nationals coming from Wuhan, China."

VUA program for Chinese nationals

The Immigration bureau started implementing the VUA program for Chinese nationals in 2017, following a Department of Justice circular. The move was in line with the government’s bid to increase tourism and foreign investment.

In his recommendation to Morente, Casibang cited the rising deaths due to the novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV) that originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year.

“We note that the spread of coronavirus in the country affects public interest and public health, thus, the State must protect its citizens by barring all aliens who may spread the same,” the memorandum further read.

The Civil Aeronautics Board on Thursday suspended all flights to and from Wuhan.

Among those suspended are flights of Royal Air Charter and Pan Pacific Airlines, which have flights from the Chinese city, CAB Director Carmelo Arcilla said.

Arcilla added that they will continue to monitor flights from other cities in China.

CAB also issued an advisory Thursday calling on carriers with flights coming directly or connecting from China to secure a health declaration checklist from the Bureau of Quarantine.

The announcement came after Wuhan—home to 11 million people—was put on effective lockdown. Planes and trains out of the city were canceled, with public buses and subways suspended and residents ordered not to leave “without a special reason.”— Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Agence France-Presse

2019 NCOV



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