Covid-19: Expats in UAE relieved as Philippines revises travel restrictions


Dubai - The regulation was reversed by the government on Saturday, bringing much-needed respite to residents.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Sat 20 Mar 2021, 8:31 PM

Last updated: Sat 20 Mar 2021, 8:32 PM

The National Task Force (NTF) of the Philippines announced that all citizens can now enter the country, revising a recent regulation that allowed only “overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to enter the country”.

On March 17, the NTF said it would suspend foreigners and returning citizens’ arrival as the island country battles a renewed surge in Covid-19 cases and increasing infections of new variants. Following this, UAE carriers also announced plans to reduce Manila flights’ flight capacity due to restrictions announced by the government.

The regulation was reversed by the government on Saturday, bringing much-needed respite to residents. However, a cap of a maximum of 1,500 incoming travellers into the country remains, and foreign nationals are not allowed entry either. The date has been changed from the previous order of March 20 to April 19 as well.

Harry Roque, the official spokesperson of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, stated on Friday foreign nationals would still be barred from entering the country effective March 22, 12.01 am until April 21, 11.59pm, Manila time.

Filipinos living in the UAE without an employment visa are not classified as OFWs. The regulations left several Filipino expats with travel plans back home in a state of flux.

Marketing professional Marvin Balita, and his wife, had travel plans for March-end. “My wife is under my sponsorship even though I am officially an OFW. Our kids are back home in Manila. We booked the tickets so we could see them. I considered cancelling our tickets. Since the rules have been revised, we can finally see our kids. We haven’t seen them in a year.”

May Marquez, a Sharjah- resident, said, “I am not officially an OFW, and I have to go back home since my husband has lost his job and wants to stay back for a while to find another one. We both can’t afford to stay here without pay, but my husband can manage it alone.” Marquez now hopes to leave for home two weeks from now.

The NTF also clarified the exemptions for inbound foreign travellers on Saturday. Foreigners exempted from travel restrictions are diplomats and members of international organisations and their dependents (those with 9C or 47A2 visas at the time of entry).

Other categories of travellers include - foreign nationals involved in medical repatriation; foreign seafarers under the ‘Green Lanes’ programme for crew change; foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens with valid visas at the time of entry; and emergency, humanitarian and other analogous cases approved by the NTF.

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