The Philippines is lifting its ban on foreign tourists after nearly two years of being mostly closed to leisure and business travelers.
The country will reopen its doors to travelers from more than 150 countries, including the United States, starting on February 10. Foreign travelers will no longer be required to quarantine in government-designated facilities upon arrival as long as they have been fully vaccinated and present a negative COVID-19 test.
“Travelers must present negative RT-PCR results from a test taken within 48 hours of departure from their country of origin and must self-monitor for symptoms for seven days after arrival, reporting to local government authorities if they begin to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms,” the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines stated.
As for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travelers, they will be required to quarantine in a government facility until producing a negative COVID-19 PCR test result on the 5th day of quarantine, after which they will be subject to home quarantine until the 14th day after their arrival.
Children under the age of 18 are exempt from the vaccine requirements.
The Philippines is also doing away with its “red,” “yellow,” and “green” country risk-level designations on which it based entry restrictions.
U.S. travelers heading to the Philippines should be reminded that all international arrivals, vaccinated or not, must be tested for COVID no more than one calendar day before flying into the United States. But according to the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, PCR and antigen tests, while available for U.S. citizens in the Philippines, are not reliably available within one day.
“COVID-19 testing facilities may require a copy of your passport and proof of residence or accommodation, including but not limited to a valid Philippine driver’s license, barangay (neighborhood) certificate, or utility bills,” the embassy states. “Please contact the testing facility for their requirements prior to your appointment.”
The embassy also cautions that the costs of tests can vary according to which test is given and can be higher for tests than guarantee receipt of results within 24 hours.
“PCR and antigen tests have become more difficult to obtain as the Omicron variant spreads throughout the Philippines,” the embassy warned in a January 31 update. “Because of increased demand for testing, it may take up to three days or longer to receive results.”
The Philippine government had initially planned to lift its foreign travel ban on December 1, but that plan was postponed amid the spread of the Omicron variant, which also prompted authorities to reimpose some tighter restrictions on the ground—for instance, unvaccinated Filipinos have been asked to stay at home until the end of January.
“We’re done with border control,” Philippines Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire told a news conference this week, adding that the government’s focus has instead shifted to preventing community transmission.
The number of tourists dropped by more than 6 million, and more than 1 million Filipinos lost their jobs in tourism businesses and destinations in the first year of the pandemic alone, according to government statistics. Tourism destinations, including popular beach and island resorts, resembled ghost towns at the height of pandemic lockdowns.
The Philippines has reported more than 3.5 million confirmed COVID-19 infections, with 53,801 deaths, the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.
Associated Press contributed reporting.