IATF OKs entry of all returning Pinoys to PH

MANILA – Filipinos residing and working overseas are now allowed to return to the Philippines, after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) revised the rules on the suspension of entry of incoming travelers.

Under Resolution 103 approved Thursday, the IATF-EID allows all Filipino citizens abroad to go back home.

“All Filipino citizens, whether returning overseas Filipino or overseas Filipino worker (OFW), shall be allowed to return to the Philippines,” the latest resolution read.

The latest directive came after a memorandum circular issued on Tuesday temporarily barred non-OFWs from entering the country due to the upward trend in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases nationwide.

The travel ban, according to IATF-EID Resolution 103, will be imposed on most foreign travelers from March 22 to April 21.

Exempted from the travel restrictions are diplomats and members of international organizations, foreigners involved in medical repatriation, foreign seafarers under the “green lanes” program, foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens traveling with them, and other emergency humanitarian cases approved by the National Task Force against Covid-19.

The resolution, however, clarifies that Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente has the “exclusive prerogative to decide on waiver or recall of exclusion orders for all foreign nationals authorized entry under relevant IATF resolutions, subject to regular reporting to the IATF Secretariat at the end of each calendar month.”

“The entry of all of the foregoing shall still be subject to such daily limit of incoming passengers as may be imposed by the Department of Transportation,” the resolution read.

Defer non-critical activities

The IATF-EID’s Resolution 103 also enjoins national government agencies to defer the conduct of “non-critical” activities that would entail mass gatherings.

The order also came, as some government workers, including several Cabinet officials, have tested positive for Covid-19.

Roque, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas are among the latest government officials who caught the virus.

Roque, who is currently isolating in a hotel in San Juan City, said his recent travels before testing positive for Covid-19 are part of his “official duty” as a public official.

He added that he did not violate health protocols.

Restricting public movement

Amid the continuing rise in Covid-19 infections in the country, Roque said the government adopted the “circuit breaker measures” imposed by Singapore to slow the spread of the virus.

This, as Roque admitted that the country could not afford to impose stricter quarantine measures.

Roque said the government would instead restrict people’s movement.

“There is no lockdown, which is the notion of a circuit breaker as applied in Singapore,” he said. “As a last resort, pupuwede tayong mag-increase ng quarantine classification pero napakadami na nga pong nagugutom kaya kinakailangan eh buksan natin hanggang maaari ang ating ekonomiya (As a last resort, we can impose a stricter quarantine classification but many will go hungry. That’s why we need to reopen our economy as much as possible).”

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has urged local government units (LGUs) to tighten enforcement of minimum health protocols.

Lorenzana, chair of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, said this came as they noticed that some LGUs have already lowered their guard as the country rolled out its vaccination drive.

"Hopefully we can stem the rise of Covid (-19) infection, otherwise hindi tayo makagalaw (we cannot move) unless na magkaroon tayo ng (unless we all have) vaccination.

In an effort to contain Covid-19, the IATF-EID also suspended the operations of driving schools, traditional cinemas, gaming arcades, libraries, archives, museums, cultural centers, and limited social events in Department of Tourism-accredited establishments until April 4.

The IATF-EID also said the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions will be limited to essential business gatherings at 30 percent venue capacity.

Venue capacity of dine-in restaurants, cafes, and personal care services will also be scaled back to 50 percent, based on the IATF-EID’s latest resolution.

Religious gatherings will also be limited to 30-percent venue capacity, while cockfighting and cockpit operations will also be suspended. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)