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Travel ban during Manila lockdown lifted for OFWs, balikbayans, foreigners

18 March 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

A day of worry ends for OFWs and Filipino residents abroad as travel restrictions are lifted anew
The Philippine government has allowed overseas Filipino workers, residents abroad and foreign tourists to leave the country during the month-long community quarantine or lockdown of Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.

The move was announced during a late-night press conference at Malacanang on Mar 17 by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

“OFWs, balikbayans and foreign nationals leaving for abroad through any ports in Luzon shall be allowed to leave the Philippines at anytime for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine,” Nograles said.


Previously, everyone who wanted to leave the country during the lockdown was given only 72 hours, or until midnight of Mar 19, to fly out.

This resulted in thousands of people rushing to the airports from midnight of Mar 16 to try to get on limited flights, or rebook tickets so they could beat the deadline.

Many Filipinos flying out to such places as the United States and Canada reported paying exorbitant rebooking fees of as much as US$3000 per ticket just so they could fly out.

Those who could not secure seats sent out urgent appeals to the government to extend the 72-hour deadline so they could all leave within the month-long lockdown.

Dozens of people, mostly bound for Hong Kong, were also barred from taking their early-morning Hong Kong Airlines flight after the Department of Transportation issued a false advisory saying Filipinos would no longer be allowed to fly out of the country.

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As a result of the easing of the travel ban, only Filipino tourists and those intending to fly to places where travel restrictions are in place, such as China’s Hubei province and South Korea’s Daegu districts, will be prevented from leaving.

Nograles says OFWs may be brought and fetched from the airport by OWWA

Nograles said those allowed to fly under the relaxed rules must present proof of their travel itinerary scheduled within 24 hours before their departure.

Also, departing passengers may be accompanied by only one person when traveling to the airport.

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The new rules, crafted during the daily meeting by government officials that make up the Inter-Agency Task Force to combat the spread of the coronavirus, also paid particular attention to OFWs who worry about having to travel home during the lockdown.

Many of them live outside Metro Manila, and are worried that they will not be able to get to their respective destinations because all public transportation had been halted since the enhanced lockdown took effect on Mar 17.
Addressing this concern, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has undertaken to provide transportation for OFWs to and from the airports in Luzon – the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, and the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

Nograles said these government measures will be subject to joint periodic reviews by the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Tourism.
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