MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Bureau of Immigration announced on Tuesday, January 28, that it will “temporarily suspend” the visa upon arrival (VUA) mechanism for Chinese tourists and businessmen due to the novel coronavirus scare.
“We are now temporarily suspending the issuance of VUA for Chinese nationals to slow down the influx of group tours,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement on Tuesday.
Morente cited the move of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to suspend direct flights from Wuhan City, the epicenter of the virus.
Philippine health authorities had not yet confirmed a case of novel coronavirus in the country but as of Tuesday, 3 people were being monitored for flu-like symptoms at the San Lazaro hospital in Manila. Two of the 3 patients have a history of travel to Wuhan.
Morente clarified there is no policy to bar Chinese nationals in general, so those who have other valid visas can still enter the Philippines.
“We have not received any directive imposing policy changes on Chinese nationals. But we are taking this proactive measure to slow down travel, and possibly help prevent the entry of the 2019-nCov,” Morente said.
The VUA is open to Chinese visitors who are part of accredited tour groups, delegates of conferences, investors and businessmen with endorsements from the Philippines, and athletes.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) tightened rules on VUA this month, limiting it to 30 days only with no provision for extension.
Immigration officers have also put in place protocols for inspection of tour cruise ships docking at the country.
According to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the “World Dream Cruise Ship” from Hong Kong arrived at the Philippines Tuesday morning, while the cargo ship “MV Ligulao” from Lianyungang, Jiangsu, China arrived Monday, January 27. Jiangsu is 900 kilometers away from Wuhan.
The PCG said both vessels were declared safe by the Bureau of Quarantine.
“As to our officers who board these vessels for immigration inspection, health and sanitation protocols have already been put in place to minimize, if not altogether ensure against, the health hazards related to their work,” said Justice Undersecretary for Immigration Markk Perete. – Rappler.com