Gov’t lifts 24-hour restriction on departing OFWs, foreigners

Sofia Tomacruz
Gov’t lifts 24-hour restriction on departing OFWs, foreigners

Rappler.com

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles says overseas Filipino workers and outbound foreign nationals will be allowed to leave the Philippines 'without any impediment'

MANILA, Philippines – Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Wednesday, March 25, said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and foreigners leaving the Philippines will now be able to go “unimpeded” to international airports.  

Nograles said the government’s coronavirus task force adjusted travel restrictions for the concerned groups by rescinding the rule that they could only head to airports 24-hours before their scheduled flights.  

“Overseas Filipino workers, permanent residents of foreign jurisdictions, and stranded foreign nationals leaving for abroad through any of the ports in Luzon shall be allowed to leave the Philippines without any impediment,” Nograles said in a Laging Handa press briefing in Malacañang.  

“Unimpeded access,” Nograles said, covers travel to and from “national government facilities such as airports, ferries, and bus terminals,” among others. Vehicles being used to service OFWs and foreigners will also be allowed to move freely. 

Hayaan po natin. Huwag na natin pahirapan ang mga foreign nationals na makaalis po ng bansang Pilipinas,” he added. 

(Let them leave. Let’s not prevent foreign nationals from leaving the Philippines.) 

Why this matters. Reduced airline operations, along with travel restrictions imposed during the Luzon lockdown has stranded in the Philippines some 4,500 tourists.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raised the issue during the government task force’s meeting on Tuesday, March 24, hours after European Union (EU) Chargé d’ Affaires Thomas Wiersing called attention to the matter.

Wiersing spoke on behalf of EU countries, as well as, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Nograles said foreigners complained that the 24-hour window to go to airports made it difficult for them to find travel to international ports, especially when coming from different provinces and areas outside Luzon.

Despite this, Nograles stressed easing of restrictions should not be used by others to travel to countries where prohibitions remain in place.

He added rules on having only one person taking foreigners to airports still applied, while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration should provide transportation for outbound OFWs. 

Hotel bookings allowed. Nograles said stranded Filipinos and foreigners were also allowed to book hotels and seek temporary accommodation.  

Exemptions were granted after Weirsing told the DFA that marooned foreign tourists had nowhere to stay since hotels did not allow them to make new bookings. 

Hotels were directed to continue observing single occupancy rules for health workers and repatriated OFWs. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.