All systems go

Everything’s looking bright and hopeful now that the Philippines has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated tourists from all countries

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat at the closing ceremony of the 21st Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)

Since the Department of Tourism (DOT) reopened the borders of the Philippines to fully vaccinated tourists from all countries on April 1, it’s been all systems go.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat says the department is optimistic on more inbound arrivals with the further simplification of entry requirements to the Philippines as the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, under Resolution No. 165, has approved the entry of foreign nationals without the need of an Entry Exemption Document (EED), provided they comply with applicable visa and immigration laws, rules, and regulations. 

Imposed during the pandemic, the EED thus far had been the first requirement for foreigners from visa-required countries to enter the Philippines. With this document, foreigners could then acquire a short-term 9(a) visa to enter the country. But beginning April 1, there is no longer any need for an EED before foreigners apply for visas.

Puyat expressed support to the IATF’s decision, saying it would encourage more foreign nationals to visit the country and,  in turn, help bring back revenues to tourism businesses and boost the economy.
“We thank our colleagues in the IATF and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), as well as our public and private sector partners who have been working with the DOT since the onset of the pandemic to ensure that the country’s reopening is carefully planned and carried out with health and safety in mind,” Puyat said.

The DOT chief pointed out that the new guidelines will restore in particular the country’s English as a Second Language (ESL) sector, as it will enable foreign nationals to travel to the country visa-free or using their 9A visas and apply for their special study permit upon entering the country.

“Visitors who come for our education tourism—ESL in particular—stand to benefit from this development as this will grant foreign nationals who wish to study in the country an interim process to remotely secure their visas,” added Puyat.

Local ESL schools, mainly in the country’s leading destinations for ESL, such as Baguio and Cebu, have already expressed their readiness to accept foreign students and commitment to follow IATF guidelines, as well as introduce additional measures that will ensure the safety of educators and students. During the pandemic, the DOT has continually promoted the country as a hub for ESL and piloted initiatives such as the Master Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) to upskill and certify teachers from all over the country.

‘As we move toward a more relaxed entry regulation for foreign tourists, the DOT sees a brighter perspective for the country’s tourism industry in the near future.’

Data from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) showed that Special Study Permits (SSP) applications have continuously increased prior to the pandemic. From 22,561 in 2013, SSP applications in 2018 reached 59,428. SSP is issued by the BI for foreigners who wish to engage in short-term study in the Philippines.
Nevertheless, the DOT clarified that under the latest resolution, foreign travelers will still be required to be fully vaccinated, and to undergo pre-departure RT-PCR or antigen testing prior to their entry. On the other hand, those who are unvaccinated and who are not compliant with applicable visa and immigration laws, rules, and regulations will be subject to exclusion proceedings.

Meanwhile, Puyat hailed President Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 166, which states that “The National Government shall endeavor to further relax requirements relating to international travel and provide quarantine exemptions for vaccinated individuals coming into the country, in order to boost international tourism, increase foreign investments, and restore jobs in the tourism sector.” The said EO also orders the reduction of restrictions on domestic travel, and the streamlining and standardization of requirements for domestic travel and local tourism.”

Puyat noted that with these developments, DOT is optimistic that better tourism numbers could be seen in the coming months.

“As we move toward a more relaxed entry regulation for foreign tourists, the DOT sees a brighter perspective for the country’s tourism industry in the near future. We will ensure that this transition will be done in careful accordance to the prescribed health and safety measures,” Puyat said.