THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) has ordered the suspension of visa upon arrival (VUA) facility, but clarified that there is no order barring Chinese nationals from entering the Philippines amid the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) scare.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the suspension follows the travel lockdown implemented in several cities in China.
At least eight cities in China -- Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang, Chibi, Qianjiang, Zhijiang, Jingmen and Xiantao -- have been shut down since Friday, January 24, to try to contain the deadly novel coronavirus that has sickened hundreds. All these cities are in central China's Hubei province, where the illness has been concentrated.
“The Civil Aeronautics Board has already suspended direct flights from Wuhan province... We are now temporarily suspending the issuance of VUA for Chinese nationals to slow down the influx of group tours,” said Morente in a press release.
He said Chinese tour groups have been using the VUA facility in visiting the Philippines.
A similar move was done by Taiwan Immigration authorities, who, according to an article by the Taipei Times, cancelled permits for 429 people in 24 tour groups from Wuhan, China.
Morente clarified, however, that there is no order barring Chinese nationals from entering the country.
“We have not received any directive imposing policy changes on Chinese nationals. But we are taking this proactive measure to slow down travel, and possibly help prevent the entry of the 2019-nCov,” he added.
He said should there be policy changes pertaining to foreign policy, it would be through the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Office of the President, as advised by the Department of Health.
Morente also clarified BI's role in inspecting suspected carriers of the virus at the ports.
“It is the Bureau of Quarantine who conducts monitoring of arriving passengers to see if they are manifesting symptoms of the corona virus. They have put up measures in place to strictly check arriving passengers,” he said. “They have been very active in giving information to frontline port personnel on how to prevent the transmission of the virus, given the risk of direct contact with possible carriers,” he added.
He said the “BI is always ready to assist the BOQ and the DOH in securing whatever information that they need in order to prevent the entry of this sickness in the country.” (PR/With AP/LMY)