BI hopeful Philippines will quickly recover pre-pandemic tourist arrivals

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) remains hopeful that the Philippines will quickly recover the pre-pandemic 45,000 daily arrivals of foreign tourists after the government eased travel restrictions amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The government’s decision to loosen travel restrictions is considered “good news,” especially now that the Philippines is recording 15,000 daily arrivals, which is expected to increase in the coming months, according to BI Dana Sandoval.

“It’s good news: our travel restrictions have been further loosened, so this is a major factor to really encourage foreign nationals, and also our fellow Filipino citizens living abroad, to come home and visit the Philippines,” Sandoval said in English and Filipino during yesterday’s Laging Handa forum.

She added that as far as travel arrival is concerned, BI’s records showed it is still far from the pre-pandemic figures, but she noted that the country is already “getting there” with new travel guidelines set by the government to encourage more tourists.

Sandoval also emphasizes that the increasing number of tourist arrivals started when the government eased travel restrictions in February when it is allowed fully vaccinated to enter the Philippines.

“Our daily arrivals (during the onset of the pandemic) were just around four or five thousand per day; now, the number has gone up to 15,000 per day,” she said.

The BI official stressed that the onset of the rainy season in the country would not affect tourist arrivals because travel restrictions in the country have been loosened.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) recently approved new travel guidelines, allowing fully vaccinated and boosted tourists to enter the Philippines even without a RT-PCR or swab test.

In another development, Sandoval said the BI is continuously coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) and the IATF if the two agencies will come up with new travel guidelines amid the new threat from the monkeypox.

No monkeypox case has been recorded in the Philippines.

The BI is part of the so-called “four-door strategy” of the DOH against monkeypox, where they will be implementing the necessary travel restrictions against the disease, according to Sandoval.

“During the first few months of the pandemic, we implemented … country-specific travel restrictions, on countries with high numbers of cases and with high risks of bringing COVID-19 here in the Philippines,” she said.

“We see that actions may be similar (with those relating to COVID-19), if, based on studies by the DOH and IATF, they need to be implemented (for monkeypox). We at the Bureau of Immigration are ready anytime to implement such travel restrictions,” she added.

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