Procedures for Airport Arrivals of Filipinos and Foreigners during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Updated: May 20, 2020
This describes the procedures which Filipinos and foreigners will undergo upon arrival in the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic period.
BULLET POINT SUMMARY:
Two government agencies issued regulations on arriving Filipinos and foreigners. The latest one was issued by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) on May 11, 2020, and this is the one followed for now.
The CAB declared that all airline passengers are now required to undergo RT-PCR testing.
The cost of the testing is PHP3,500.00. For OFWs, the cost will be shouldered by Philhealth. Non-OFWs who are members of Philhealth may charge the cost of testing to their Philhealth membership, but they should have their Philhealth number ready. While waiting for the results of their RT-PCR tests, the arrivals will stay in quarantine.
OFWs shall be brought to their government-designated accommodations. The government will pay for their accommodations.
Foreigners and non-OFW Filipinos will have to pay for their own hotel accommodations. They will be brought to their accommodations from NAIA by government transportation.
Test results are expected to be released after three (3) to five (5) days.
For more details, see below or check the guidelines issued by the CAB on May 11, 2020 (ADVISORY RE: Guidelines on Arriving Passengers) and DOH Department Memorandum No. 2020-200, dated May 01, 2020.
FILIPINOS AND FOREIGNERS ARRIVING AT AN AIRPORT
All Filipinos and foreign nationals arriving at an airport shall undergo quarantine and testing procedures. There are no exceptions to the rule.
The Department of Health (DOH) Department Memorandum Order 2020-200, series of 2020, classifies passengers to either of two types of quarantine: (1) Mandatory Quarantine, and (2) Stringent Quarantine.
As a general rule, all arriving Filipinos and foreign nationals are required to undergo Mandatory Quarantine. On the other hand, those classified for Stringent Quarantine are the following:
Filipinos and foreigners who are coming from a high-risk place of origin or lay-over. These are those areas with a high level of community transmission according to the latest issuance of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the WHO COVID-19 Situation Report.
Any individual who has influenza-like signs upon entry.
Sea-based Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who did not submit complete pre-arrival evaluation documentary requirements (i.e., Maritime Declaration of Health, fully accomplished Repatriation Information Sheets, etc.); and those whose ship or vessel reported confirmed COVID-19 cases.
However, at this point in time, the government only implements a modified Stringent Quarantine for all arrivals, with no exceptions. This article will discuss both types of quarantine, but will focus on Stringent Quarantine. Mandatory Quarantine will be discussed at the latter part of this article to show what to expect when the DOH starts implementing it for arrivals later on.
WHAT TO EXPECT UPON ARRIVAL AT THE AIRPORT
All sea-based OFWs shall be subject to pre-arrival evaluation with regard to his vessel or origins. Expect a round of questions and medical assessment. A Quarantine Medical Officer (QMO) shall decide if the sea-based OFW will be classified under Stringent Quarantine or Mandatory Quarantine.
All other Filipinos and foreign nationals arriving at the airport shall be evaluated and their Health Declaration Card collected. The process includes thermal scanning and possible medical assessment by a QMO. The QMO will check where they flew from or where they had a layover and will determine if they shall be classified for Stringent Quarantine or Mandatory Quarantine.
Those coming from an area classified by the WHO COVID-9 Situation Report to have a high level of community transmission will be subject to Stringent Quarantine.
The QMO will brief the Filipinos and foreign nationals on what to expect during Stringent or Mandatory Quarantine. In either case, the persons will be directed to the "One Stop Shop" relevant to their status either as an OFW, returning non-OFW Filipino, or foreign national.
Passengers will will be told about their quarantine accommodations.
The cost of accommodations for land-based OFWs will be shouldered by OWWA. Sea-based OFW accommodations will be shouldered by their local manning agencies and the Maritime Industry Authority. Note that OFW accommodations will have no choice in their designated quarantine facilities if they decide to accept paid accommodation under these government agencies.
Foreigners and returning Filipinos (who are not OFWs) will have different accommodations and will have to shoulder their own expenses, including the costs of their testing.
Note that, as of this writing, the provisions on Mandatory Quarantine are not being implemented. The provisions on Stringent Quarantine are currently being implemented on all arrivals. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) issued an Advisory dated May 11, 2020 with regard to the guidelines on arriving passengers. Under that advisory, all passengers would be required to undergo RT-PCR testing.
WHAT TO EXPECT UNDER STRINGENT QUARANTINE
All Filipinos and foreign nationals who are under Stringent Quarantine shall undergo RT-PCR COVID-19 testing either at the port of entry or in the designated Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) Stringent Quarantine Facility.
Under the DOH guidelines, all Filipinos and foreign nationals shall stay in a Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) Stringent Quarantine Facility until the RT-PCR test results are released.
Foreign nationals who are holders of 9(e) visas, along with their dependents, may stay in BoQ-approved hotels of their own choice, and at their own expense. However, the BoQ, upon its discretion and depending on the circumstances, may also allow Filipinos and other foreigners who are not holders of 9(e) visas to stay at BoQ-approved hotel quarantine, at their own expense.
However, under the CAB Advisory currently being implemented, all non-OFW Filipinos and foreign nationals (regardless of their visa status) are supposed to stay at a BoQ-approved hotel at their own expense while waiting for the results of their tests.
The BoQ will issue an endorsement letter or have the passenger execute an undertaking or other document which will be shown to their facility or quarantine hotel as part of their documentation requirements.
All Filipinos and foreign nationals whose RT-PCR tests yield a negative result are allowed to end the BoQ facility-based Stringent Quarantine, but they should undergo 14-day home quarantine at their residence or in other local monitoring facilities. This 14-day quarantine is in addition to the time they spend in the Stringent Quarantine facility or hotel.
Filipinos and foreign nationals who yield positive RT-PCR test results (meaning, that they are positive for COVID-19) shall be removed from the Stringent Quarantine Facility (or hotel) by the BoQ and transferred to a referral hospital or Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility (TTMF) to be medically managed in accordance with the COVID-19 protocols of the DOH. Once cleared for discharge, the Filipino or foreigner shall undergo another 14-day home quarantine.
The BoQ shall issue what is called a Unified Quarantine Certificate to the Filipinos or foreign national upon discharge from the quarantine facility.
The CAB Advisory dated May 11, 2020 states that all passengers are now required to undergo RT-PCR testing, regardless of whether they are classified for Stringent Quarantine or Mandatory Quarantine. The cost of the testing is PHP3,500.00. For OFWs, the cost will be shouldered by Philhealth. Non-OFWs who are members of Philhealth may charge the cost of testing to their Philhealth membership, but they should have their Philhealth number ready.
While waiting for the results of their RT-PCR tests, the arrivals will be required to stay in quarantine. OFWs shall be brought to their government-designated accommodations. The government will pay for their accommodations. Foreigners and non-OFW Filipinos will have to pay for their own hotel accommodations. They will be brought to their accommodations by government transportation.
Test results are expected to be released after three (3) to five (5) days.
Filipinos are allowed to enter the Philippines. Foreigners should check if their visa status allows them entry at this time.
It would be wise to research on BoQ-accredited quarantine hotels to stay in and book in advance to ensure that you have rooms there.
The DOH regulations require you to stay in your hotel room. However, confirm with your chosen hotel if you are allowed to use other hotel facilities.
If you need clothes or medicines, make sure that your chosen hotel will allow delivery of clothes and medicines from your family here. This should be arranged with the hotel staff or management because only authorized personnel (government workers and hotel personnel) will be allowed to enter the hotel premises. Deliveries can only be made to hotel entrances manned by hotel and government security personnel and will be brought directly to your hotel room.
You will not be allowed to meet your family in the hotel. They will not be allowed in the premises.
If you have dietary restrictions, make sure to coordinate with the hotel or see if they will allow food delivery.
There is nothing in the rules that allow or prohibit luggage from being pick up by family from the hotel. You should check with your hotel if they will allow your family to pick up your luggage and pasalubong from the hotel entrance. There is no guaranty that this will be allowed, though, so you should be careful about bringing in perishables.
WHAT TO EXPECT UNDER MANDATORY QUARANTINE
(Note that these regulations are currently not being enforced under the CAB Advisory issued on May 11, 2020. But this may change in the future, so this article will still discuss the DOH regulations on Mandatory Quarantine to ensure that the best information is available to the reader.)
According to DOH Department Memorandum 2020-200, all Filipinos and foreign nationals classified for Mandatory Quarantine shall undergo Rapid Antibody COVID-19 testing upon arrival. The rapid test kits only require a small blood sample. The result comes out in about 15 to 30 minutes. This shall be the baseline test. RT-PCR test may be resorted to under the discretion of the officer in charge (NTF COVID-19 Chief Implementer), and depending on logistics and supply of RT-PCR test kits (this is done at the expense of the person). After that, the Filipinos and foreign nationals will be brought to a designated Mandatory Quarantine Facility.
All Filipinos and foreign nationals who are capable of paying for their own food and accommodations may be allowed to stay in a BoQ-approved (for Filipinos and foreigners) hotel quarantine facility of their choice.
OFWs will be quarantined in government-designated quarantine hotels. Make sure to obtain proper endorsement paperwork from the BoQ or OWWA officer in the airport which will be presented to the hotel.
All foreign nationals who are holders of 9(e) visas who are classified for Mandatory Quarantine (along with their dependents) may undergo RT-PCR testing at their own expense at the port of entry or at a BoQ-approved hotel quarantine facility of their own choice. If the RT-PCR test yields a negative result, the foreign national shall be allowed to leave the hotel and undergo 14-day home quarantine at his residence or lodging. If the person becomes symptomatic anytime during quarantine, the BoQ will perform a nasal swap for RT-PCR.
All Filipinos and foreign nationals who were not subject to RTC-PCR testing will have to stay for 14 days in the Mandatory Quarantine Facility or the quarantine hotel. After the 14-day period, they will again undergo Rapid Anti-Body testing. Based on the results, the person may be released from quarantine, have quarantine extensions in 7-day increments, or may need to confer with infectious disease specialists.
Note that Filipinos and foreign nationals who were subject to RT-PCR testing may leave even before the 14-day mandatory period in the hotel or quarantine facility, but will still have to undergo home quarantine for another 14-days.
After discharge from Mandatory Quarantine, the BoQ shall issue all a Unified Quarantine Certificate.
This article was published on May 19, 2020.
About the author:
ATTY. PETER MICHAEL DIZON graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law as a working student. He entered the Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) and later served as a consultant for intellectual property law. He later joined one of the oldest and most experienced law offices in the Philippines, where he practiced litigation, immigration, and commercial law. He has a broad base of experience not only in the legal profession but also in the public and the private sector, particularly in the tech industry.