Malacañang said the Philippine government does not easily impose travel restrictions on its Asian neighbors but stressed that it will not hesitate to implement a ban if the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in a certain country worsens.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement following questions about why the government has not yet imposed restrictions on travelers from Malaysia and Thailand where surges of COVID-19 cases were reported.
The Philippines has imposed restrictions on travelers from Indonesia until the end of the month due to the transmission of the Delta variant. It was the latest to be added to the travel ban list that had eight countries as of July 20.
In his press briefing on Wednesday, July 21, Roque explained that the situation in Malaysia was not as bad as when the restrictions were imposed on travelers from Indonesia on July 14.
“Nung nagdesisyon po na irekomenda ang travel ban sa Indonesia, 97 percent na po ang prevalence ng Delta variant doon sa bansang ‘yan (When it was decided to recommend the travel ban on Indonesia, the prevalence of the Delta variant in that country was 97 percent),” he said.
“Noong mga panahon pong iyon ay nasa 34 percent pa lang ang prevalence sa bansang Malaysia (During that time, the prevalence of the Delta variant in Malaysia was only at 34 percent),” he added.
According to Roque, the government does not easily impose travel restrictions on neighboring Asian countries.
However, he said that if the situation worsened, a ban will be imposed immediately.
“Makikita niyo po talaga na hangga’t maaari, dahil mga karatig bansa natin ‘yan at ‘yan ang pinakamalapit na mga bansa sa atin, ay iniiwasan natin ang travel ban (You can see that, as much as possible, because they are our neighboring countries, we avoid placing a travel ban),” Roque said.
“Pero kapag meron talagang banta na, gaya ng nangyari sa Indonesia na 97 percent na ang prevalence rate sa Delta variant sa kanila, ay nagdedeklara na tayo ng travel ban (But when the threat presents itself, like what happened to Indonesia with a 97-percent Delta variant prevalence rate, we will declare the ban),” he added.
Last week, Roque addressed criticisms that the government acted “too late” in imposing the restrictions on Indonesia, citing the small number of travelers entering the country from Indonesia over the past four months.
“Hindi naman po too late ‘yan kasi meron naman po tayong datos ng mga dumarating na mga pasahero galing Indonesia (We were not too late because we have data on the passengers coming from Indonesia),” he said.
“Unang-una wala po tayong turismo at wala rin po tayong business visas except for the long-term investor’s visas na in-issue natin (First of all, we don’t have tourism yet and we don’t have business visas except for the long-term investor’s visa that we have issued),” he added.
According to Roque, there were only 724 travelers from Indonesia who entered the Philippines from April to July this year.