Immigration bureau logs 79% drop in international travelers entry

CLARK FREEPORT -- The Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported a 79 percent drop in the number of international travelers who entered the country this year.

This is a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that prompted the government to impose stringent travel restrictions, according to the agency.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said BI statistics showed that more than 3.5 million passengers arrived here from January to December 25, 2020, compared to the 16.7 million who came in 2019.

Morente said that of those who arrived this year, 2.03 million were Filipinos and 1.54 million were foreigners.

He said 8.7 million Filipinos and 7.9 million foreigners entered the country in 2019, during the same period.

Morente said the 13-million drop in figures is not surprising considering that worldwide drop in international travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government continues to implement travel restrictions on international travel, especially foreign tourists who are still prohibited from entering the country.

"We expect these passenger statistics to remain low perhaps until early next year," said Morente. "But we remain hopeful that the international travel sector recovers soon, especially once the vaccine reaches our shores and confidence in travel is restored."

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourism is "expected to decline over 70 percent in 2020, back to levels of 30 years ago."

With the pandemic, travel and tourism remains one of the most affected sectors, as the world faces global travel restrictions, with many borders closed.

Lawyer Candy Tan, BI Port Operations Division chief, reported that from a promising 1.53-million arrivals last January, the volume dropped to 858,859 in February and to 363,548 in March. It was on March 14 that President Rodrigo Duterte issued a proclamation placing the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Tan said passenger arrival volume was more than 800,000 from April up to December, many of which were returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were repatriated from their host countries.

"The number of foreigners who arrived have steadily increased from only 1,591 in April to more almost 18,000 this December which is still very low compared to last year when foreigner arrivals averaged more than 700,000 a month," Tan added.

She attributed the recent rise in foreigner arrivals to the decision of government to lift restrictions on the entry of former Filipinos, also known as Balikbayans, and their foreign spouses and children who are traveling with them.

It was learned that from December 7 up to December 25 a total of 5,237 Balikbayans have arrived in the country in time for the holidays.

Tan said more than 132,000 passengers have already arrived this December, which is 18 percent higher than those who came in October.

"While we do not expect a sudden increase in the number of travelers until early next year, we are on standby and monitoring the number of travelers to ensure that we have enough personnel should the volume increase once the vaccine becomes available and worldwide travel restrictions are lifted," she said.

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