MANILA, Philippines – Foreigners currently in the Philippines will not be affected by the country’s latest move to ban all non-Filipinos from entering the country, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday night, March 19.
The DFA made the clarification in an advisory, saying the temporary suspension of visa issuances and visa-free entry privileges “has no impact on foreign nationals that are already in the country or on holders of visas issued by other government agencies.”
Earlier on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr announced on Twitter that the Philippines would effectively ban all foreigners from entering the country to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus.
Locsin said the Philippines would do this by suspending all visa issuances in the DFA’s foreign posts and home office, as well as suspending visa-free entry privileges for at least 100 countries, including the United States and several European countries.
The move caught many by surprise as the DFA chief said visas issued before the announcement would be deemed canceled, while only foreign spouses and children of Filipinos were exempted from the temporary travel restriction.
How the ban will be implemented: The DFA’s posts both in the Philippines and abroad will stop issuing visas from Thursday, March 18 “until further notice.”
Aside from this, the DFA said all visa-free privileges including those based on visa waiver agreements, those under Executive Order 408 series 1960, as well as holders of Hong Kong and Macau passports, Macau-Portuguese passports, and British National Overseas passports would likewise be temporarily suspended beginning Sunday, March 22.
Holders of visas issued by Philippine Foreign Service Posts such as tourists visas will not be allowed entry into the country starting March 22.
The DFA said the ban is based on Presidential Proclamation No. 922, dated March 8, 2020, declaring a “State of Public Health Emergency” throughout the Philippines; and Proclamation No. 929, dated March 16, 2020, declaring a “State of Calamity” throughout the Philippines due to the coronavirus disease.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr likewise gave assurances foreign tourists stranded in the Philippines will be “deemed to have their visas extended” and will not face penalties when departing the country.
If this inconveniences foreign nationals, we will ease the way for them. This is not a time to teach people lessons, force them to depend on themselves; but for us to help. Teaching lessons is for teachers—not officials. It is not that we're paid to help but helping is duty. https://t.co/kl0GqUU60V— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) March 19, 2020
Who else is exempted: Aside from foreigners in the country, foreign spouses and children of Filipinos were exempted from the temporary suspension.
Holders of visas earlier issued to accredited foreign government and international organization officials, as well as their dependents, will also remain valid. These visas, the DFA added, will be honored when entering the country even after March 22.
Why this matters. The Philippine government has put in place a series of stringent measures, include sweeping travel restrictions, to quell the spread of the coronavirus in the Philippines, where at least 217 cases and 17 deaths were recorded as of Thursday.
Stringent social distancing measures – or the practice of increasing the space between people to prevent the spread of disease – were put in place on Tuesday, March 17, after President Rodrigo Duterte put the entire Luzon on lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The global death toll due to the virus has surpassed 9,000 while at least 217,000 people were infected across 157 countries. – Rappler.com