The Philippines’ Border Reopening: Implications for Businesses
The Philippines tourism industry and businesses are set to benefit from ease in border restrictions as the country is now open to fully vaccinated international travelers.
The Philippines is among several ASEAN countries that have eased border restrictions for individuals and businesses. For two years, the country implemented preventive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 by closing its borders.
Under the latest regulations, the Philippines is now open to fully vaccinated international visitors. Entry permits are no longer exclusive to foreign nationals from visa-free countries but are open to all eligible travelers.
Foreign nationals who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or whose vaccination status cannot be verified are not allowed to enter the Philippines.
The border reopening is significant for a country dependent on tourism like the Philippines; the hospitality sector is an important contributor to its national GDP.
What should businesses know about the entry requirements for the Philippines?
Proof of vaccination
All international travelers must be fully vaccinated. Vaccination of either a second dose series or single dose must be received not more than 14 days prior to departure. It is also compulsory to possess and present any of the following proof of vaccination:
- World Health Organization International Certificate of Vaccination and Prophylaxis;
- National or state digital certificate of the country/foreign government, which has accepted VaxCertPH under a reciprocal arrangement; or
- Other proof of vaccination permitted by the IATF.
If travelers fail to comply with the guidelines for an acceptable proof of vaccination, they can be transferred to a quarantine facility and tested on the fifth day of quarantine. They will only be released when there are negative results.
Before arriving in the Philippines, travelers must obtain:
- A negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival; or
- A negative antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure.
Travelers shall self-monitor for any signs or symptoms within 10 days of arrival and must notify the nearest medical facility if they present any COVID-19 symptoms.
Visa, passport, and valid tickets
Foreign nationals entering the Philippines must obtain a valid visa. Those who are eligible to enter without a visa are required to hold:
- Valid passports for at least six months at the time of arrival; and
- Valid tickets of return to port of origin or next port of destination.
The period of stay must not extend beyond 30 days. A travel or medical insurance covering COVID-19 treatment with a minimum coverage of US$35,000 is also mandatory for visa-free visitors.
Reviving the Philippines tourism industry
Home to over 7000 islands and a rich cultural heritage the Philippines is widely known as an attractive destination for international travelers. The country’s tourism industry contributes to 13 percent of national GDP in pre-pandemic times, generating some US$50 billion for the country. Approximately 8.26 million foreign travelers visited the Philippines in 2019, and 5.7 million Filipinos are employed in the sector. During the pandemic, employment in tourism witnessed a 28.4 percent decline, while the number of international visitors fell severely to 160,000 in 2021.
With the ban on foreign travelers lifted, the tourism sector is experiencing a promising recovery. Data from the Filipino Bureau of Immigration saw a 40 percent increase in the number of visitors from 150,740 to 211,899 from January to February 2022, compared to the previous year, while mid-March numbers also show subsequent steady growth as 100,000 travelers were recorded. However, tourism revenues are not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2023.
In a bid to attract more foreign tourists, the Department of Tourism is developing sustainable tourism models via extensive waste management systems, road connections, and environmental rehabilitation programs. Successful examples include the closure and rehabilitation of Boracay island to resolve the worsening sewage conditions there, as well as improving water quality and litter disposal in the regions of Panglao, El Nido, Siargao, and Manila Bay.
The country is also eager to tap into the growing market for the ‘workation’ sector – a growing trend of remote working combined with leisure. This would enable the Philippines to provide high-quality experiences over mass tourism.
The country also aims to boost international air traffic via increased air connectivity through the opening of 40 new international air routes. This would reduce airport congestion and expand air seat capacity by 1.6 million.
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