a group of people looking at the camera: ‘No agreement on easing travel for long distance partners’

© Mark Ralston/AFP
‘No agreement on easing travel for long distance partners’

MANILA, Philippines — Bad news for Filipinos with foreign significant others.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday disputed a statement by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles that the government’s pandemic task force has agreed in principle to ease the outbound travel restrictions on Filipinos who want to reunite with their foreign partners.

Roque, spokesman for the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), said agencies have not reached an agreement on the travel protocols and that the matter is still being discussed by a technical working group (TWG).

“Let me clarify: outbound, those who are leaving, there is no agreement yet in principle. I do not know where the information that there was an agreement in principle came from,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“I know this is bad news for lovers. But it would be better for you to know the truth so you won’t have false hopes. It’s not a personal decision that I made, it’s a decision of the IATF and I am only the spokesperson of the IATF. I’m sorry,” he added.

Last Saturday, Nograles said the IATF has agreed in principle to allow Filipinos with foreign partners to leave but some details are still being finalized. He said agencies are also working together to ensure that persons infected with COVID would not leave the country.

Roque said he asked Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay, acting chair of the TWG, about the outbound travel protocol.

“He confirmed that there is no agreement in principle even for outbound,” the Palace spokesman said.

“The discussion in the TWG is continuous,” he said. “I would like to stress, any information about IATF must originate from my office so there will be no confusion.”

Nograles has not reacted to Roque’s statement.

Roque noted that unlike some countries like the United States, the Philippines does not have a separate fiancé visa. He said foreigner fiancés of Filipinos can use ordinary tourist visas.

“We are still restricting the entry of tourists into the country. That is being implemented in almost all countries,” Roque said.

“With regard to outbound (travel), it’s still limited to essential travel; with regard to inbound, tourism is still not allowed. It will be for a specific urgent purpose and it will have to be endorsed by a line agency of government that has jurisdiction over the purpose of the alien in coming to the Philippines,” he added.