MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The Philippine government will temporarily close its borders to foreigners and returning Filipinos who are not overseas workers starting March 20 amid an increase in the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the country.
In a memorandum circular issued Tuesday, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said the Philippines will suspend the entry of foreigners and Philippine passport holders who are non-OFWs from Thursday, March 18, until April 19, 2021, "in light of efforts to prevent the entry of SARS-CoV-2 variants from other countries and the further rise of cases."
The entry ban will cover all foreigners and non-OFWs, except for the following:
- holders of 9(c) visa
- medical repatriation and their escort/s duly endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration
- distressed returning overseas Filipinos dully endorsed by the DFA and the OWWA
- emergency, humanitarian and other analogous cases approved by the NTF COVID-19
The Civil Aeronautics Board earlier said it would only allow 1,500 inbound passengers from international flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport starting March 18.
The cap on inbound arrivals in the country's main gateway will be in effect until April 18, 2021, CAB said in an advisory.
The CAB advisory will prevail, said NTF spokesperson Ret. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
"By and large wala naman po pagkakaiba, 2 araw lang po 'yan pero ang motive po ng pareho circular na ito ay 'yung paghihigpit ng pagpasok ng ating bansa para mapababa ang bilang ng may sakit na COVID-19 at mga bagong variant na nakukuha natin," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(By and large, there's no difference, it's just 2 days. The motive of both circulars is to tighten the entry to our country to lower the number of COVID-19 cases and those with new variants.)
Because of the development, Cebu Pacific announced that it would be cancelling flights through the following routes from Mar. 18 to April 18, 2021:
- Manila – Narita (Tokyo) – Manila
- Manila – Nagoya – Manila
Cebu Pacific said all affected passengers would be informed through the contact details they provided in the ticket booking.
They can update, rebook, or have a refund for their flights through the airline's Manage Booking portal within 30 days from the date of departure here.
On Tuesday, the Department of Health reported over 4,000 new confirmed infections in the country.
The Philippines is unlikely to return to enhanced community quarantine this March despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, Malacañang said as the country marked the first year of its coronavirus lockdown.
- With a report from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News