MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Wednesday night, March 18, said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was considering suspending visa issuances worldwide as well as the visa-free privilege for all countries except those in Southeast Asia.
Locsin made the announcement in response to the Philippine government’s decision to place the entire Luzon on lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The measure, he added, would be temporary and last until the end of lockdown period on April 12 if implemented.
“DFA considering suspension of visa free privilege except for ASEAN. Also stopping visa issuance worldwide during period of lockdown,” Locsin tweeted Wednesday night.
“And no more visa upon arrival even if we stamp passports with DFA stamp showing most of South China Sea and Pacific up to Guam as PH territory,” he added referring to the Philippines’ policy to stamp foreign passports with the map of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
If finalized by the Philippines, the measure will be an expansion of restrictions taken by the Philippine government to manage the novel coronavirus situation in the country.
The Philippines has so far limited the suspension of visa issuances to foreigners coming from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Aside from this, the Bureau of Immigration in January 2020, suspended the visa upon arrival (VUA) mechanism for Chinese tourists and businessmen.
There are at least 100 countries that enjoy visa-free privileges to the Philippines, including the United States and several countries in Europe.
Other measure taken: Sweeping travel restrictions are already in place in the Philippines with Filipinos traveling as tourists barred from leaving during the Luzon lockdown.
After nearly a day of back and forth, the government said only overseas Filipino workers, balikbayans, and foreigners will be able to leave the country from Luzon, provided they showed proof they were traveling 24 hours after leaving their residence or accommodation.
Filipinos, their foreign spouses and children, if any, as well as permanent resident card holders coming home will likewise be allowed to do so, subject to quarantine measures.
So far, non-Filipino travelers coming from North Gyeongsang Province, including Daegu City and Cheongdo County in South Korea; as well as Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China – ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak – were not allowed to enter the country.
Travelers coming directly from Iran and Italy likewise need to secure medical clearance, which ensures they tested negative for the coronavirus 48 hours prior to their departure.
As of Wednesday, the Philippines has reported 202 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 7 recoveries and 17 deaths.
The global death toll, meanwhile, has reached 7,873, with 3,237 of the fatalities in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau). The number of cases worldwide has risen to 194,000, with more than 80,894 of the infections in China. The virus has spread to at least 150 countries. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com