Last updated on February 14, 2020, 11:45 PM
Almost a month has passed since what is now known as CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) started a mass panic in the Philippines. As the number of confirmed and suspected cases keep on climbing, travelers must be more vigilant than ever, especially with all the new policies being imposed amid the COVID-19 scare. Keep track of what the government is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Starting January 28, 2020, the Philippines temporarily stopped issuing visas to travelers from the province of Hubei, China. This was immediately followed by the temporary suspension of visa upon arrival (VUA) system for Chinese tourists and businessmen, as announced in a statement by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.
On January 31, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a temporary travel ban on Chinese citizens coming from the infected areas.
Two days later, on February 2, 2020, Duterte issued another order to include any person, regardless of nationality, traveling directly from China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the temporary travel ban. Only Filipinos and permanent residence visa holders will be allowed to travel from these regions.
Filipinos are also banned from travelling to China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
On February 10, 2020, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Eric Domingo confirmed that Taiwan is included in the temporary travel ban. However, as of February 14, 2020, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease issued a resolution that lifts the travel ban on Taiwan, effective immediately.
— Darryl John Esguerra (@DJEsguerraINQ) February 14, 2020
Travel policies for other countries
The Korean Embassy to the Philippines also announced that they will be temporarily suspending the visa-free entry into Jeju Island until further notice.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government issued an order that anyone who had travel history into the Hubei province will not be accepted for visa application. Other nationalities who are applying for visa must answer a questionnaire regarding their health.
According to Philippine Airlines, the United States government requires all foreign airline carriers to have their passengers submit a Public Health Declaration Form to complete the check-in process to the U.S.A. This is a a new regulatory requirement of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Strict prevention measures on all borders
On February 7, 2020, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) announced that only travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau are required to undergo a mandatory fourteen-day quarantine. Meanwhile, those coming from other countries affected by COVID-19 have the option to undergo voluntary quarantine. This clarification comes after an infographic that supposedly came from DILG made rounds on the Internet.
Starting January 31, 2020, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) are also imposing preventive measures to secure the country’s borders via sea travel, including general thermal scanning and individual checks for passengers who reach a certain temperature.
For cargo shipments, the PPA has also issued parameters in light of the spread of COVID-19. Ports will remain open for shipments, but vessel crew may not disembark while docked in any PPA-controlled port or at anchorage.
Amid the travel bans imposed by the Philippine government, several airline companies announced the cancellation of flights to China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
Philippine Airlines has cancelled all their flights to and from the following destinations until March 28, 2020:
- Beijing, China
- Guangzhou, China
- Shanghai, China
- Xiamen, China
- Quanzhou (Jinjiang), China
- Hong Kong
Rebooking, rerouting, or refunding tickets within the ticket’s validity period, with fees waived will resume once the travel ban is lifted and flights are reinstated. For more information, visit the official Philippine Airlines website.
Cebu Pacific Air has cancelled their flights to and from the following destinations:
- Hong Kong (until February 29, 2020)
- Macau (until February 29, 2020)
- Beijing, China (until March 29, 2020)
- Shanghai, China (until March 29, 2020)
- Xiamen, China (until March 29, 2020)
- Guangzhou, China (until March 29, 2020)
- Shenzhen, China (until March 29, 2020)
For their cancelled flights, Cebu Pacific’s affected passengers have several options to choose from: (1) rebook the flight to a new travel date until June 30, 2020 (free of charge); (2) refund the tickets in full; or (3) store the value of the ticket in a Travel Fund for future use. For more details, visit the official Cebu Pacific Air website.
AirAsia Philippines advised their passengers that flights have been cancelled until further notice for the following destinations:
- Guangzhou, China
- Shenzhen, China
- Shanghai, China
- Hong Kong
AirAsia encourages their guests affected by flight cancellations to change their travel plans with the following provisions: (1) move flight to a new travel date on the same route, without additional cost; (2) retain the value of the flight to the AirAsia BIG Loyalty account for future travel; or (3) obtain a full refund. For more information, visit the official AirAsia website.
Cathay Pacific has also cancelled flights to and from Hong Kong between 4 February 2020 and 28 March 2020. Passengers may rebook, reroute, or refund with charges waived. Visit the official Cathay Pacific website for further details.
Starting February 21, 2020, Philippine Airlines will resume operations for flights between Manila and Taipei. The following flight schedules will be operational by February 21, 2020:
- PR890/891 Manila-Taipei-Manila
—– Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (21 February to 29 February)
—– Daily (from 01 March 2020)
- PR890 to depart Manila at 6:05 AM and arrive in Taipei at 8:30 AM
- PR891 to depart Taipei at 9:30 AM and arrive in Manila at 11:40 AM
From March 29, 2020 onwards, Philippine Airlines will continue to maintain their standard regular schedule of twice daily flights (PR890/891 and PR894/895). See their statement here for further details.
Cebu Pacific Air are also reinstating their flights to Taiwan with the following schedule:
- Monday, February 17-until further notice
5J 310 Manila-Taipei (Departs 10:40pm)
- Tuesday, February 18-until further notice
5J 311 Taipei-Manila (Departs 1:45am Mon/Wed/Sat; 2:15am Tue/Thu/Fri/Sun)
- February 21, 2020-until further notice
5J 312 (Departs 7:05am)
5J 310 (Departs 10:40pm)
5J 311 (Departs 1:45am)
5J 313 (Departs 10:45am)
Passengers booked on these flights who have not availed of a refund or travel fund will depart as scheduled. For more information, visit their website.
Similarly, AirAsia Philippines will also be resuming flights from Manila to Taipei and Kaohsiung and vice versa, according to their Facebook post. Further details have yet to be announced.
Hotline for Filipinos in China
— DFA Philippines (@DFAPHL) February 1, 2020
Filipinos still in China may seek assistance on the COVID-19 outbreak through a hotline set up by the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). They may access the hotline through the Chinese social media and messaging platform WeChat.
This article is periodically updated as the story develops. Bookmark this page to stay informed.