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Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are still in place, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reminded the public amid calls to allow foreigners to reunite with their Filipino partners.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that the bureau acknowledges the #LoveIsNotTourismMovement and is ready to implement any changes that the country’s COVID-19 policy-making inter-agency task force may decide.

For now, however, only Filipinos, their foreign spouse and children who are minor are allowed to enter the country using tourist visas, he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Foreign children with special needs of Filipinos, foreign parents of minor Filipinos, and foreign parents of Filipino children with special needs may also enter the country, he said.

Morente stressed that those who may enter the country have to secure an entry visa prior to their arrival. The Department of Foreign Affairs suspended visa-free privileges, enjoyed by 157 countries, last March.

Accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crew members, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas; and foreigners with long-term visas may also enter the Philippines.

“We acknowledge the petition of the #Loveisnottourism movement, and we understand how difficult it must be to be separated from your loved one,” Morente said.

“But this is a temporary measure.  We trust the wisdom of the IATF, and we are ready to implement immediately, should there be any changes in travel restrictions,” he added.

For outbound travel, Morente said only foreigners, overseas Filipino workers, permanent visa holders, students enrolled abroad, participants in exchange visitor programs, and those travelling for “essential reasons” are allowed to leave the country.

He said immediate business, medical emergencies, and other humanitarian reasons, supported by documents, count as essential travel.

“Visiting relatives abroad for a vacation is still not considered under essential travel,” the immigration chief said. “These restrictions were set by the IATF to protect everyone from the threat of COVID-19.  If your travel is non-essential, it is best to defer it when the pandemic has subsided.”

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles earlier said the Philippines is not yet ready to accept more foreigners into the country as authorities undertake a “step-by-step process” towards reopening the country’s borders.

“Kailangan natin i-ensure na mayroon tayong facilities, may quarantine, may isolation; handa po ang bansa na tumanggap ng foreigners hindi lang dahil sa love pero kahit sa tourism at whatever other reasons para sila po’y pumarito sa bansang Pilipinas,” Nograles said Tuesday. —KBK, GMA News

This article BI reminds public: Travel restrictions still in place was originally published in GMA News Online.