MANILA — Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion on September 19 urged the Duterte Administration to consider shortening the quarantine period for fully vaccinated travelers from North America for the Christmas season. 

Following a meeting with Philippine Airlines (PAL), Concepcion also backed the flag carrier’s proposal for international flight passengers to undergo testing three days before departure, quarantine upon arrival and take a confirmatory a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test on the third day.

The proposal is part of PAL’s new protocol on international flights announced by President and COO Gilbert Santa Maria and Dexter Lee who serves as senior vice-president and chief strategy and planning officer

He said that should the test yield a negative result; the passenger should be allowed to quarantine at home.

“With the Christmas season fast approaching, it’s now high time for the government to consider shorter quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers from other countries, especially North America,” Concepcion said, citing a PAL data showing the proposal will help passengers save PHP25,000 and enjoy a more comfortable isolation at home.

“The aviation industry is on the brink of collapse. If we don’t help the airline industry now, we might face a huge problem on how to travel in the future,” he added. 

In a report by The Philippine Star, airlines have previously urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to review placing North America as part of the list of green countries considering it is one of their biggest markets.

In the same meeting attended by Concepcion, airline officials and Department of Health (DOH) and IATF adviser Dr. Edsel Salvaña, PAL noted that it earned $1 billion from the North America market prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concepcion, who pushes for vaccine bubbles for the fully vaccinated backed by more than 1,000 business owners and franchisees, said letting vaccinated people travel will help both the transport sector and the tourism industry. 

“By allowing more mobility to the vaccinated, many people who are relying on Tourism for their livelihood can earn enough money for their everyday needs,” Concepcion said. 

Green lanes, shorter quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers

On June 29, the government through presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that it will allow shorter quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers by July. 

Previously, the government limited the shorter seven-day facility-based quarantine to travelers who are returning to the Philippines after being vaccinated locally. 

“Effective July 1, travelers who were fully vaccinated in “green” countries or those with low COVID-19 risk would be allowed to shorten their facility quarantine to seven days, from the current 10 days,” Roque said, noting the travelers should “exclusively stay” in a green country for two weeks  before arriving in the Philippines. 

“They will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving a single-dose COVID-19 shot or the second jab of a 2-dose vaccine,” he added, noting travelers will be required to take an  RT-PCR test on the fifth day of their quarantine and even if they test negative for the pathogen, they will need to complete the seven-day quarantine.

By July, the IATF modified the protocols for fully-vaccinated individuals who can avail of “green lanes” by releasing a list of ineligible individuals under Resolution 128-A. 

“Individuals whose port of origin is not a green country or jurisdiction cannot avail of green lanes. Those who stayed outside a green country or jurisdiction at any time in the last 14 days prior to their arrival in the Philippines are also not qualified for green lanes,” Roque said. 

“International arriving passengers to the Philippines, regardless of point of entry, shall not be qualified for the green lanes, and shall thus undergo a 10-day facility-based quarantine and a four-day home quarantine, including an RT-PCR test on the seventh day,” he added.

Roque also noted that “all passengers, whether Filipinos or foreigners, merely transiting through a non-green country or jurisdiction will likewise not be deemed as having come from that country or jurisdiction, if they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry by immigration authorities.”

“Individuals who are not fully vaccinated, or even if fully vaccinated but whose vaccination status cannot be verified as authentic upon their arrival in the country, cannot also be given green lane,” he added.