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All systems go for reopening of PH to fully vaxxed tourists — DOT chief

THE Department of Tourism (DOT) on Friday announced “it’s all systems go” for the country’s reopening to fully-vaccinated tourists starting April 1.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the DOT is optimistic on more arrivals with the further ease of entry requirements to the Philippines.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), under Resolution No. 165, approved the entry of foreign nationals starting April 1, without the need of an Entry Exemption Document (EED), provided they comply with applicable visa and immigration laws, rules, and regulations.

The EED had been the first requirement for foreigners from visa-required countries to enter the Philippines; with this document, foreigners could then acquire a short-term 9(a) visa to enter the country.

However, beginning April 1, there is no longer any need for an EED before foreigners apply for visas.

Puyat expressed support for the IATF-EID’s decision, saying it will encourage more foreign nationals to visit the country and, in turn, help bring back revenues to tourism businesses and boost the economy.

“We thank our colleagues in the IATF-EID and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), as well as our public and private sector partners who have been working with the DOT since the onset of the pandemic to ensure that the country’s reopening is carefully planned and carried out with health and safety in mind,” Puyat said.

She added that the new IATF-EID guidelines will restore the country’s English as a second language (ESL) sector, as it will enable foreign nationals to travel to the country visa-free or using their 9A visas and apply for their special study permit upon entering the country.

“Visitors who come for our education tourism—ESL in particular—stand to benefit from this development as this will grant foreign nationals who wish to study in the country an interim process to remotely secure their visas,” added Puyat.

According to Puyat, local ESL schools, mainly in the country’s leading destinations for ESL such as Baguio and Cebu, have already expressed their readiness to accept foreign students, and commitment to follow IATF-EID guidelines, as well as introduce additional measures that will ensure the safety of educators and students.

During the pandemic, the DOT has continually promoted the country as a hub for ESL and piloted initiatives such as the Master Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) to upskill and certify teachers from all over the country.

Data from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) showed that Special Study Permits (SSP) applications have continuously increased prior to the pandemic. From 22,561 in 2013, SSP applications in 2018 have reached 59,428. SSP is issued by the BI for foreigners who wish to engage in short-term study in the Philippines.

Thr DOT clarified that under the latest resolution, foreign travelers will still be required to be fully vaccinated, and to undergo pre-departure RT-PCR or antigen testing prior to their entry. On the other hand, those who are unvaccinated and who are not compliant with applicable visa and immigration laws, rules, and regulations shall be subject to exclusion proceedings.


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