No banned flights — BI

March 16, 2020
Jaime Morente

IMMIGRATION Commissioner Jaime Morente yesterday called on the public to stop spreading fake news amidst the ongoing COVID-2019 pandemic.

The call comes after several social media posts that alleged flights from China have been continuously arriving in the country despite the supposed travel ban.

“We are not banning flights, but are rather restricting people coming from areas of concern,” said Morente.  He clarified that some flights to and from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea still continue to operate as they may carry exempted classes that may fly in and out of the country.

In the Bureau of Immigration’s most recent travel restriction announcement, passengers from China, Macau, Hong Kong and North Gyeongsang in South Korea are not allowed to enter the country.  However, Filipinos and their spouses or children, foreigners with Philippine permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps are exempted from the restriction.

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bound for Mainland China except Hubei province and Wuhan City may now depart as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) last March 12, provided that they sign an undertaking stating that they are aware of the risks involved in their travel.  OFWs, permanent residents and their dependents, and student visa holders may continue to fly out to Hong Kong, Macau, and North Gyeongsang.

The BI also announced the implementation of the expanded travel restriction for Iran and Italy starting today. Arriving passengers from both countries will be required to present a medical certificate issued within the last 48 hours stating that they are COVID-2019-free.  Also exempted are Filipinos and their spouses or children, foreigners with permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps.  Those exempted will likewise be endorsed to the Bureau of Quarantine for the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“We are not after certain nationalities. This virus does not pick races.  We are after travel patterns. Hence, Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau nationals, South Koreans, Iranians, and Italians who have not been to the areas of concern in the last 14 days are not part of the restrictions,” he clarified.  “But any foreigner, regardless of nationality, who come from these areas of concern will not be allowed to enter,” he added.

“Flights that come from the restricted countries carry either Filipinos or those exempted from the ban,” said Morente.  He stated that spreading fake news adds to unnecessary panic.  “Stop spreading false information.  Always check and double check information you see online, and trust only official sources,” he added.

In one such viral post, netizens questioned the arrival of a Xiamen Air flight that arrived last March 10.

However, BI reported that the flight carried only four passengers: a Filipino citizen, and three permanent residents, who are all part of the exempted classes.