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US travelers join 20 other nations on the Philippines' travel ban list

Jan. 05, 2021
5 min read
Whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) takes off over boulders of dead corals, dahiter coral reef, Pacific Ocean, Sulu Lake, Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, Palawan Province, Philippines
US travelers join 20 other nations on the Philippines' travel ban list
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Due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. travelers are no longer allowed to enter the Philippines as of Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.

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The Philippines Bureau of Immigration issued the advisory on the second day of the new year, one day before the ban went into effect. "Foreigners from the U.S. have been added to the list of [restricted travelers]," said immigration commissioner Jaime Morente.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide

The ban includes travelers from all U.S. territories including Puerto Rico and Guam, and will be in place through Jan. 15 with the possibility of an extension. The ban also includes travelers of any nationality who originated from or entered the U.S. within 14 days of arrival in the Philippines, according to a spokesperson for President Rodrigo Duterte.

U.S. travelers who arrived in the country before Jan. 3 had been allowed to enter, but with a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a designated facility before joining the public, or traveling elsewhere within the Philippines.

The United States has had the most COVID-19 cases of any country worldwide, with a recent tally of more than 20 million total cases.

The current restriction is in response to the new, highly-infectious strain of COVID-19 that recently emerged in the United Kingdom and has spread to the U.S. As of Jan. 3, the Philippines had not detected any cases of the new variant strain within country borders, according to the local Department of Health.

The U.S. joins 20 other countries on the restricted list for entering the Philippines:

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Filipino nationals returning from these countries can enter the country, but must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival, even if their initial COVID tests are negative for the coronavirus.

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Travelers entering the Philippines from other countries not on the restricted list, but who transit through a restricted country on the way, will be allowed to enter the Philippines — with a huge caveat. If they left the airport or entered any of the restricted countries en route, they will be denied entry.

Additionally, anyone who transits through a restricted country within 14 days of arrival in the Philippines will also be turned away. More information can be found at the U.S. embassy website. Note that the order also applies to U.S. territories like Guam.

Eligible travelers entering the Philippines must follow the health safety guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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Despite the strict entry regulations, the Philippines has suffered severe economic impact from the loss of international travelers.

“International travel... dropped 79 percent in 2020," said Bureau of Immigration Port Operations Division Chief Cindy Tan. "You could really feel the effects, especially during this holiday season. What used to be a bustling airport during Christmas and New Year is now silent and somber."

“While we are hoping for the revival of confidence in international travel, we are constrained to take these measures for everyone’s safety,” Tan said.

As with many other countries around the world, the Philippines' travel restrictions are temporary, but will remain in effect either until the pandemic subsides, or government regulations are updated again.

Related: Can I go to Asia right now? A country-by-country guide to reopening

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country comprised of more than 106 million people scattered across 7,000 islands. The popular tourist destination is popular with adventure travelers, both for its bustling cities like Manila, as well as its breathtaking beaches and nature in far-flung places like Boracay and El Nido.

Unfortunately, the densely populated island nation has struggled to manage coronavirus outbreaks since the disease was first identified in Asia over a year ago. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19 advisory for the Philippines, which has seen nearly 500,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic — the second-highest rate in the Southeast Asia region, after Indonesia.

The country repatriated more than 327,000 overseas nationals in 2020. Many had been working abroad in other countries; others were impacted by the massive cancellations throughout the cruise industry.

Related: When will cruises resume? A line-by-line guide

Given that U.S. travelers are barred entry without exceptions, the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines has not updated its guidelines for entry since Dec. 29, 2020. However, a negative PCR test prior to travel was not required for entry prior to the ban date of Jan. 3, 2021, according to the embassy website. Instead, travelers would be met with health screening protocols upon arrival, followed by mandatory 14-day quarantine and strict instructions to follow curfew requirements upon successful quarantine exit.

Photo of the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park in the Philippines. (Photo by imageBroker/Norbert Probst/Getty Images)

Featured image by Getty Images/imageBROKER RF
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