Filipinos in countries covered by the temporary travel ban will still be allowed to return home as long as they are part of the government’s repatriation efforts, Malacañang said yesterday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this clarification after announcing that the Philippines has extended the travel ban imposed on passengers coming from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, and Oman until June 30.
He said Filipinos will still be allowed to return home, subject to quarantine and testing protocols.
“Let it be clear, however, that Filipinos covered by the repatriation programs of the government and repatriation activities of manning/recruitment agencies cleared by the Bureau of Quarantine are not prohibited from entering the Philippines,” he said. “They can enter the country, subject to testing and quarantine protocols. We hope this clarifies the matter.”
Roque defended the need to extend the travel ban, noting that it was imposed to ensure continuous strict border control to prevent the spread of the B.1617 “double mutant” variant of the coronavirus first discovered in India, and called “Delta” in the new World Health Organization system.
Since the Delta variant is more transmissible as seen in the experience of other countries, Roque emphasized the need for “continued vigilance.”
The travel ban on India was first imposed from April 29 to May 14.
The government expanded travel restrictions to include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, from May 7 to May 14.
Travelers coming from Oman and the United Arab Emirates were banned from entering the Philippines from May 15 to 31.
However, the travel ban was extended until June 15.
On Friday, Department of Health Technical Advisory Group member Edsel Salvana reported that 13 Delta variant cases were detected in the country, all from returning Filipino travelers.
Salvana said all 13 individuals were returning travelers, and nine of them were from the Covid-19-stricken vessel Athens Bridge, that was allowed to dock in Manila last month after being refused entry in Vietnam.
Reports showed that the Delta variant is found to be 60 percent more infectious than the Alpha variant and apparently behind the surge in cases in other countries.*PNA