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Philippines suspends visa issuance until January 15
The suspension of visa issuance was announced by Philippine embassies in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland as well as by the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.
STAR/File

Philippines suspends visa issuance until January 15

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - January 1, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine embassies have suspended the processing and issuance of visas during the travel ban that will last until Jan. 15.

The suspension of visa issuance was announced by Philippine embassies in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland as well as by the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.

The temporary suspension of visa is enforced by the Philippine government as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus strain, which has recently been detected.

All visa applications will only be processed after the lifting of the travel suspension on Jan. 15, unless further extended.

On Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) advised foreign nationals and Filipino citizens intending to come to the Philippines to reconsider their travel plans for a later date amid the precautionary measures enforced by the government to prevent the entry and spread of the new COVID-19 strain.

The DFA referred to the Malacañang announcement on Tuesday about the extension of the temporary entry ban on flights and foreign passengers coming from the United Kingdom and 19 other countries and jurisdictions that have reported incidence of the new coronavirus strain.

It said that all foreign nationals, regardless of previous Philippine visas and exemptions granted, who will be flying from or have been to the following countries and jurisdictions—Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Spain and the UK— 14 days prior to arrival here will not be permitted to enter the country.

Filipino citizens who come from these areas can still enter the Philippines but will be required to complete the 14-day quarantine at a government facility even if an RT-PCR test shows negative results.

“The DFA encourages those intending to travel to the Philippines to check with the nearest Philippine embassy or consulate and regularly consult the website and social media sites of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration for the latest information,” the DFA said.

The Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) said it supports the recently implemented travel bans against countries with the new strain of COVID-19, emphasizing the importance of health and safety amid the pandemic.

“The travel ban imposed on countries with the new strain of the COVID-19 virus is a painful but necessary step to ensure the health and safety of the country. It is a setback but needs to be done,” TCP president Jose Clemente III told The STAR in a mobile message.

He added that “other countries have already imposed their respective travel bans as precautionary measures so we are hardly alone in doing the same. We can only hope that the new strain is controlled and further spread is prevented.”

Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente said the country’s tourist arrivals for 2020 significantly dropped by 79 percent as the government strictly implemented travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

He noted that only about 3.5 million passengers have arrived in the Philippines from January to Dec. 25, 2020, which is lower than the 16.7 million visitors in 2019.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL) will continue with their scheduled flights to and from the countries with reported cases of the new COVID-19 strain, but will only accept Filipino citizens.

Cebu Pacific said it would continue to operate its domestic and international flights as scheduled but would not accept foreign nationals who originated from, transited via, or visited any of the 20 countries specified in the recent Inter-Agency Task Force resolution within 14 days prior to arrival in the Philippines.

“During this period, only Filipino citizens will be accepted on Cebu Pacific’s flights from Hong Kong, Nagoya (Japan), Singapore and Seoul (South Korea),” it said.

Cebu Pacific said passengers affected by the temporary ban may avail themselves of any of three options—free rebooking within 90 days with rebooking fee and fare difference waived, full travel fund valid for two years, or a full refund.

The airline said passengers are encouraged to choose their preferred option and self-manage their bookings online.

PAL, for its part, said it would only accept Filipino citizens, their spouses and their families on board its flights from Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Canada, South Korea and Australia during the period.

The flag carrier had earlier cancelled its flights to/from London until end-February next year in view of tightened restrictions by the UK government. PAL said affected passengers may rebook on the next available flights with rebooking service fees waived. They may also refund the cost of their ticket with refunding service fees waived, or convert the ticket into a travel voucher for future use. – Catherine Talavera, Robertzon Ramirez, Richmond Mercurio

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