By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor

Filipinos whose spouses and/or children have not assumed Philippine citizenship will be allowed to bring into the country their families starting December 7.

This, after the government relaxed its ban on the entry of foreigners to the Philippines by allowing the foreign husbands or wives and their children to receive the same entry rights as their Filipino spouses or parents.

During a press briefing last week, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced the new policy of the Duterte administration.

Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) will allow the entry to the Philippines “of Filipino citizens’ foreign spouses and children, regardless of age, who are traveling with them, starting December 7, 2020.”

Also allowed entry are former Filipino citizens who have since assumed foreign citizenship. The same conditions extend to their spouses and children of whatever age, who are entering the country with them.

Previously, only foreigners with investor or work visas were allowed to enter the Philippines as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreign tourists traveling on tourist visas are still banned from entering the country for the time being. The new policy now allows the spouses and children of Filipino citizens to visit the country for leisure purposes.

The IATF’s new rule is part of its 85th resolution and takes effect in the weeks before Christmas. It allows families to be reunited for the holiday season, traditionally the time of year when balikbayans flock to the country for rest and recreation.

It is not only Filipinos who are based in far flung countries like the US, UK and the Middle East who prefer to come home during the Christmas season. Even overseas Filipino workers based in such nearby places as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Brunei head home for the holidays.

The spouses and children of returning former Filipino citizens are still subject to certain conditions before they are allowed into the country.

The conditions are as follows:

  • They are allowed visa-free entry under the terms and conditions of Executive Order No, 408, series of 1960;
  • They must pre-book at a quarantine facility in the country;
  • They must pre-book a swab test (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) at a laboratory operating in the Philippine airport;
  • They must abide by the passenger maximum capacity of their ports of entry

The Department of Tourism has been tasked with ensuring adequate quarantine facilities for anyone planning to enter the Philippines under the new rules, while the Bureau of Immigration will ensure the smooth implementation of the new rules

A number of hotels will be used as facilities that will shoulder the cost of quarantine for overseas Filipino workers, while non-OFWs are asked to foot the bill for their hotel stay.

Incoming visitors who are quarantined in hotels can only leave after they test negative in their RT-PCR test results.

The loosening of the strict entry rules was one of the requests made by the Tourism department in order to boost the country’s severely affected Tourism industry, which forced countless hotels, BnBs, motels, resorts, and restaurants to close shop, either temporarily or permanently.

The DOT has been urging tourist facilities in such areas as Coron in Palawan and Siargao in Mindanao to speed up the reopening of their facilities.

One unexpected enticement for tourists is the recent naming of Intramuros in the capital city of Manila as the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction this year by the World Travel Awards.

The Philippines was also named as the World’s Leading Dive Destination for the second year in a row.

The mood was dampened, however, when all of Metro Manila’s mayors last week asked the national government to retain the general community quarantine for the entire National Capital Region until the end of the year.