The Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT) announced on March 25, that it’s all systems go for the country’s much awaited reopening to fully-vaccinated tourists from all countries starting April 1, 2022.
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 for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), under Resolution No. 165, has approved the entry of foreign nationals starting April 1, 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-EID’s decision, saying it will 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-EID 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 IATF-EID 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.
According to 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-EID 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.
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 have 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 shall be subject to exclusion proceedings.
Meanwhile, Puyat hailed President Rodrigo Roa 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, the Department is optimistic that better tourism numbers could be seen in the coming months.
“As we move towards 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.