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Balikbayans coming home

THOUSANDS of Filipinos who have changed their citizenship are expected to swamp the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other international airports in the country after the Inter Agency Task Force on Infectious Disease (IATF) lifted the travel restrictions on balikbayans and their families and allowed visa free entry to former Filipinos, most of whom are set to arrive on the second week of January 2021 because the December seats are all taken.

According to IATF, only 3,000 international in-coming passengers per day are allowed to land at NAIA and other airports due to the pandemic.

Along with balikbayans, expected to come are vacationing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) starting the second week of December for the Christmas season, but a heavier volume of Filipinos will be arriving in January 2021 due to the new visa free policy. All visotors will undergo quarantine in hotels accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Filipinos who became American citizens were already booking flights to the Philippines since November 27, but many could not get visas from the Philippine Embassy in New York because oftheir sheer number and due to the travel restrictions which had not yet been lifted. They got confirmed tickets on the second week of January 2021.

Makati City Pabakuna

Meanwhile, flag carrier Philippine Airlines([PAL) hailed the decision to open the country to Balikbayan visits and announced regular direct flights to facilitate travel to the Philippines.

PAL welcomed Resolution No. 85 of the IATF allowing the visa-free entry of balikbayans, effective December 7, 2020.

This latest visa-free privilege also applies to foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals, provided they travel together.

“Travelers from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia and much of Asia will get to enjoy PAL’s nonstop flights to the Philippines, designed for a safe travel experience that avoids connecting via other countries, and offering strong health and safety measures to protect our passengers,” added PAL. “This is the most convenient way for them to be reunited with their families,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said in a statement. Willy M. Balasa