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Overseas Filipinos up in arms over new entry ban to Philippines

18 March 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Only OFWs will be allowed to enter the Philippines starting Mar 20

Filipinos living overseas have raised a howl over a directive issued late Tuesday by the National Task Force Against Covid-19 which banned the entry into the Philippines of all foreigners and non-overseas Filipino workers for a month starting on Saturday, Mar 20, until Apr 19.

The directive, issued by NTF Chairman Delfin Lorenzana, came with a separate advisory from the Civil Aeronautics Board that the number of overseas arrivals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport would be capped to 1,500 a day from Mar 18 to Apr 18.

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Lorenzana cited a surge of 5,404 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, the highest in six months, for the ban. He also mentioned a press release from the Department of Health that showed a spike in the number of infections found with highly infectious coronavirus variants.

He said that of the 59 new cases of the United Kingdom variant, 18 were returning overseas Filipinos (ROF). For the 32 cases with the South African variant, 1 is a ROF while the sole case with the Brazil variant was also an OF.

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The rest of the cases were either locally acquired or were still unclassified.

TV Screen capture of the record rise of cases on Mar 15 that prompted the ban

Of about 3,700 comments made in response to the announcement on the Department of Health’s Facebook page, most expressed anger or disappointment over the ban.


Several rued that not enough time was given to warn would-be travelers, many of whom had planned for their return trip to the Philippines way in advance. Others were irked by the suggestion that overseas Filipinos were the ones bringing the mutated virus into the country.

Peter F. Santiago said, “Please take note overseas Filipinos are not the carrier of virus because they came from countries where strict control and vaccinations were fully complied with, it is them who are worried when they step out of the airport because of government inability to control the spread/infections and lack of vaccines. So why not rescind the memo and instead concentrate on local laws and implementations?”



Others were more direct. Jeshua Pari said: “Is it the non-OFW’s fault (that there is an) increasing number of Covid in the Philippines? Haha. They paid so much money for hotels, food, transportation and Covid testing, and yet you put the blame on returning Filipinos.”

But there were others who were clearly in despair. En Alcantara posted: “The next time you announce decision on a travel ban, please give at least a week’s notice to prepare passengers to cancel or revise their booked flights, hotels, transfers, etc..additional expenses for hotel booking and tests are already a burden and not all booking cancellations/revisions are refundable. I hope (an) extension of the start of effectivity will be reconsidered.”


The only exception to the ban on non-OFWs entering the country are Filipinos in distress, or other cases that are of emergency or humanitarian in nature as approved by the NTF.

Graph showing PHL's cases rising to record peaks again

But with the country’s infection rate continuing to surge, it is not likely that the order will be rescinded before the deadline is up.

The latest tally of active Covid-19 cases rose to more than 60,000 overall, with 4,387 cases being recorded on Friday. That amounts to 9.7 percent of the country’s total infection figure, which is now 635,698.

According to DOH infectious disease expert Dr. Alethea de Guzman, the number of new  infections has reached the same peak as that recorded in the country in July last year.

But what appears to be more troubling is the rapid rise in the number of cases. De Guzman said that for March, the number of infections is 2.5 times higher than that recorded in the beginning of January.

And it could get worse, with the discovery of more cases with the highly infectious variants, particularly that from South Africa which initial studies show may be resistant to vaccines.

“If these become the dominant variants, cases will increase by 28 times instead of just three times after a month,” de Guzman warned.


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