Immigration official notes exodus of foreigners from PH amid pandemic

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 28 2020 12:47 PM | Updated as of Nov 28 2020 02:45 PM

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in Pasay City is almost empty of passengers on March 20, 2020, after the 72-hour window for domestic flights prior to the air travel ban under the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Bureau of Immigration is seeing an uptick in foreign departures compared to arrivals in the country as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues.

In a public press briefing, Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said there was an "exodus" of foreigners leaving the country, with around 2 million departures for the year, adding that this may have an effect on the country's economy by year-end.

This is higher compared to the 1.5 million arrivals tallied by the office, a trend Immigration sees happening until the end of the year as travel restrictions remain in place.

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"This has a bigger effect dahil for the past few years upward ang trend ng foreign arrivals following the efforts ng DOT, malaki ang magiging impact nito sa ating ekonomiya," Sandoval said.

(The trend of foreign arrivals have been upward for the past few years following DOT's (Department of Tourism) efforts. This will have a big impact on our economy.)

The tourism industry was paralyzed for months earlier this year when government implemented lockdown restrictions to limit movement as it sought to contain the COVID-19 spread.

Several tourist spots have since reopened as quarantine restrictions eased, but they are limited to local tourists.

The government this week said it was allowing the entry of Filipinos' foreign spouses and their children starting December 7. It also permitted entry of former Filipino citizens, including their spouses and children, according to a pandemic task force resolution released Friday.

The travelers are allowed visa-free entry. However, they are required to pre-book a quarantine facility and COVID-19 test, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

The official said the move would allow families to reunite come Christmas time, reminding foreigners traveling to the Philippines to follow health protocols.

Sandoval clarified that these will only cover those who will be coming from countries with visa-free access to the country. The rest will have to secure visas before departure to the Philippines, along with other needed travel documents amid the pandemic.

"[Compared] sa previous years hindi ito papalo ng ganoong karami and following itong pag-allow ng mga balikbayan it will be allowing Filipinos to be reunited with their families," Sandoval said.

(Compared to the previous years, we will not expect a high number of arrivals and now that we've allowed balikbayans in the Philippines, it will be allowing Filipinos to be reunited with their families.)