By Esther Misa Chavez 

It’s the holiday season and you really wish to be with the family in the Philippines but are scared to fly at this time. You are not alone. But should you truly wish to taste the flavor of Paskong Pinoy once again, there are some good and not so good news.

The good news: Long quarantines are a thing of the past. Quarantine is only 1-2 days or fewer, long enough for the passenger to receive his or her COVID-19 Rapid Test results. Some receive theirs after 6 hours, and out they go to their families. Airport and airlines have made necessary upgrades to mitigate the risks of infection. Air quality on commercial airliners is pretty high, with air circulated in the cabin being completely refreshed every 2-4 minutes; PPEs are worn by attendants, hand sanitizer dispensers are provided, frequent and thorough disinfection of surroundings is undertaken, and social distancing is imposed. Now, to the not-so good news in the matter of your travel documents. Valid passports and visas are no longer enough to get you on board your flight.

The pandemic caused every country in the world to shut its borders, leaving countrymen locked in or locked out. Seven months into the shutdown, borders and airports are beginning to ease up, though restrictions apply. For those desirous to travel internationally by air, make sure you have all the travel documents required by the country of destination. Many have found themselves unable to board their flights due to missing travel papers. Yes they may have their passports, but other proofs of identification are required. Going to the Philippines? Here’s the lowdown:

Who are allowed to travel to the Philippines during the pandemic?

On July 30, 2020, Philippine Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), a national task force composed of a slew of government agencies from the Department of National Defense to the Department of Health, Bureau of Fire Protection down to Barangay Tanod, the “policy-making body of operations” to “effectively and efficiently implement and decentralize the system of managing the COVID-19 situation,” gave this directive on who can travel to the Philippines at this time:

Only Filipino nationals and certain foreigners included in these categories:

  1. Foreign spouses of Filipino nationals, regardless of nationality, including US citizens;
  2. Foreign minor children, and foreign children with special needs regardless of age, of Filipino nationals; and
  3. Foreign parents of minor Filipino children and of Filipino children with special needs regardless of age.

For Filipino citizens traveling to the Philippines (not dual citizens), a valid Philippine passport or Travel Document (for emergency cases), which can be requested from consulate or embassy

Those with Dual Citizenship, the required documents are the following:

  1. Valid Philippine Passport or Travel Document
  2. Original Identification Certificate issued by Philippine consulate, embassy or Philippine Bureau of immigration, and
  3. US passport

Visa requirement for foreign spouses/children/parents of Filipino nationals coming from any country:

In the same Resolution and EFFECTIVE August 9, 2020, the following shall be required to secure the appropriate visas in order to be allowed entry into the Philippines:

  1. Foreign spouses of Filipino nationals, regardless of nationality
  2. Foreign minor children, and foreign children with special needs regardless of age of Filipino nationals; and
  3. Foreign parents of minor Filipino children and of Filipino children with special needs regardless of age.

Foreign spouses and parents/children should carry the following in order to board any airline going to the Philippines. Aside from the VISA:

  1. Proof of Marriage or filiation together with (marriage certificate/birth certificate issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) previously known as National Statistics Authority (NSO).

Visit https://www.psaserbilis.com.ph/Default.aspx

According to the Bureau of Immigration, they accept certified true copies of said documents. If the marriage certificate or birth certificate was issued by US authorities, further documentation is required.

Visit http://www.philippinessanfrancisco.org/news/7149/491/PUBLIC-ADVISORY-Notarization -aon-of-Documents-to-be-used-in-the-Philippines-and -for-consular-Purposes/d.phildet/

  1. Proof of citizenship of the Filipino spouses or parent/child (Valid Philippine Passport or Certificate of Identification issued by Philippine consulate, embassy or Philippine Bureau of immigration; or Certificate of Re-acquisition/Retention of Philippine Citizenship issued by the Bureau of Immigration. BOI did not provide the prescribed documents for what constitutes proof of living in the Philippines but may be a school record if the child is enrolled in school, or company ID if the spouse is (According to Consul Dominic Imperial)

Visa application will take 1-2 weeks after complete submission of requirements. For more information visit www.philippinessanfrancisco.org

Done with your documentation? Here are more steps to ensure stress-free travel before you fly and during check-in:

  1. Check government and airline announcements regularly, for any updates.
  2. A mandated COVID-19 swab test or Rapid Testing (RT-PCR) is required upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and other provincial airports. Pre-booking will lessen your waiting time at the airport. The following needs to be done at least 3-5 days prior departure.
  3. If you’re traveling on Philippine Airlines, they have an International One-Stop-Shop website where you can register to have your rapid testing done upon arrival at the airport. Register 3-days prior to departure date. Register and accomplish the PAL Electronic Case Investigation Form and save the confirmation e-mail and QR code. This is to make arrangements for the mandated COVID-19 swab test (RT-PCR) which will be administered upon arrival. Note that this is a two-step registration process. Your registration is completed once you receive an e-mail containing a QR Code.https://bit.ly/MNLPALeCIF
  4. For OFWs: The Philippine Red Cross provides FREE RT-PCR. Register 3 days prior departure. Online booking is only available for Passengers arriving at
    Passengers arriving at CLARK have to pay in person upon arrival.

Register at: https://e-cif.redcross.org.ph/ e-CIF

For more information about the e-CIF Form, please go to https://e-cif.redcross.org.ph.

  1. For non-OFWs (Returning Overseas Filipinos, etc.) https://bit.ly/3ffoAIK

Note: An Overseas Filipino Worker or OFW is a person from the Philippines who is living and working in another country, typically on a temporary basis. This includes land-based OFWs and seafarers/sea-based OFWs. Families traveling together with at least one OFW will be considered all OFWs. Non-OFWs refer to Returning Overseas Filipinos (non-OFW students, non-OFW Balikbayan, non-OFW tourist, etc.), spouse and children of Filipinos, diplomats, foreign officials accredited by the Philippines, and eligible non-Filipino/foreign citizens with long-term visas. https://www.philippineairlines.com/en/ph/home/covid-19/arrivingintheph

  1. Confirm you booking at a hotel accredited by Tourism and Health Agencies while waiting for your COVID-19 test results and for at least 2 days. You must stay at your booked hotel until the test result is sent and BOQ medical certificate is issued. Please book a hotel in a city within Metro Manila onlyPlease click here for the list of DOH-Inspected, PAL PartnerHotels in Manila.
  2. Upon check-in, sign the Declaration and Waiver Form presented by check-in agent, indicating that you are healthy and fit to travel.
  3. Check-in online and arrive early at the airport (at least 3-4 hours prior to departure) to allocate extra time for new safety procedures.

During the flight

Complete the Health Declaration Form and Arrival Card. According to Dell Merano, PAL Area Manager/ International Sales Office in San Francisco, it is mandatory to wear a mask over your nose and mouth and a face shield. Passengers need to bring their own.

What happens when you arrive

  1. Upon arrival, listen to the briefing conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard.
  2. Undergo a temperature check, submit the Health Declaration Form upon deplaning, and proceed to the designated waiting area. Fill out the Affidavit of Undertaking.
  3. Proceed to the verification and barcoding booth. Present your passport and the QR code sent to you after accomplishing the e-CIF.
  4. Pay for your RT-PCR Test. Effective October 16, 2020, the test costs Php 4,000 and you may pay in cash (PHP or USD), card, GCash, PayPal™, WeChat Pay, or Alipay. ATMs are available inside the terminal. You will be given three (3) barcode stickers. (The RT-PCR testing fee was previously at Php 4,500 from July 27, 2020 to October 15, 2020.) 
  5. Proceed to the Swab Test booth and hand out the three barcode stickers.
  6. Undergo the COVID-19 RT-PCR Test and receive a sticker indicating that you have completed the test. Place the sticker on the back of your passport.
  7. Help Desks are available at the waiting area for passengers who do not have smart devices/phones. Charging stations are also available.
  8. Clear with immigration and submit the Arrival Card.
  9. Proceed to the hotel verification desk. Please refer to the hotel code indicated in the e-mail that was sent to you after registration to
  10. Claim your baggage at the designated carousel and clear with Customs Check.
  11. Submit the Affidavit of Undertaking before exiting the terminal.
  12. Proceed to your booked hotel through your preferred mode of transportation
  13. AT THE QUARANTINE HOTEL —Check in at your hotel and wait for the release of your test results, which are released within 24 hours.

For those who tested negative, it will be sent to the e-mail address you have provided when you registered. If you filled out a Philippine mobile number during registration, you will also receive a text message (SMS) indicating that your test result is ready and has been sent to the e-mail address you have provided when you registered. For those who tested positive, test results will be released by the Philippine Bureau of Quarantine.

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