BI Commissioner Jaime Morente made this clarification following reports that flights from China have allegedly been continuously arriving in the country despite the travel ban.
Geremy Pintolo/ File
BI clarifies flights continue but passenger entry limited
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) yesterday clarified that while flights from China, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea continue, the passengers allowed to enter the country are those exempted from the travel ban that was enforced to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente made this clarification following reports that flights from China have allegedly been continuously arriving in the country despite the travel ban.

“We are not banning flights, but are rather restricting people coming from areas of concern,” said Morente. 

He explained that some flights to and from China, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea still continue to operate as they may carry exempted classes that may fly in and out of the country.

In the BI’s most recent travel restriction announcement, passengers from China, Macau, Hong Kong and North Gyeongsang in South Korea are not allowed to enter the country. 

However, Filipinos and their spouse or children, foreigners with Philippine permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps are exempted from this restriction.

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bound for mainland China, except Hubei province and Wuhan City, may now depart as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) last March 12, provided that they sign an undertaking stating that they are aware of the risks involved in their travel.  

OFWs, permanent residents and their dependents, and student visa holders may continue to fly out to Hong Kong, Macau and North Gyeongsang.

The BI also announced the implementation of the expanded travel restriction for Iran and Italy starting today. 

Arriving passengers from Iran and Italy would be required to present a medical certificate issued within the last 48 hours stating that they are COVID-19 free. Also exempted are Filipinos and their spouse or children, foreigners with permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps. Those exempted will likewise be endorsed to the Bureau of Quarantine for the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) appealed to all passengers of international flights not to proceed to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals unless they have ticket reservations or confirmed bookings on a certain flight.  

Cebu Pacific said yesterday that the firm will lay off 150 newly hired cabin crew as the airline has been hurting from the impact of COVID-19. ?The affected crew members would have their last day as employees on March 19, the airline said.

The 444 Filipinos from the virus-stricken cruise ship Grand Princess docked in Port of Oakland in California arrived yesterday in Clark, Pampanga.

The 438 crew and six passengers were brought home by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) onboard a chartered flight from San Francisco International Airport.

Philippine Consul General in San Franciso Henry Bensurto Jr. and his team monitored preparations for disembarkation at Oakland Port which started around noon of Sunday.

They were received by the team from DFA Home Office in Manila at the Haribon Hangar in Clark Air Base, Pampanga at around 2:15 a.m. 

After landing, all repatriates were safely and immediately transported on chartered buses to the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City for the 14-day quarantine period under the full medical attention of health professionals from the Department of Health (DOH).

Some 78 other Filipino crewmembers volunteered to remain onboard to be part of the essential manning of the ship. 

Meanwhile, the 13 Filipino crew who tested positive for COVID-19 stayed in the US and were brought to a care facility for treatment.

The other three Filipino guests disembarked and stayed in the US as they are California residents. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Rudy Santos, Sheila Crisostomo, Richmond Mercurio

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