Airline, shipping firms urged to help impose PH ban on travelers from nCoV-hit Chinese areas

Robie de Guzman   •   February 10, 2020   •   425

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has reiterated its appeal to airlines and shipping companies to help impose the country’s ban on travelers from China and its other regions that were hit by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente made the appeal after immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) blocked the entry of 36 foreign nationals who recently went to Macau, which is covered by the ban.

In a statement, the bureau said the foreigners, who flew via a Philippine Airlines flight from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, were barred entry at the NAIA Terminal 1 after immigration officers “discovered upon inspection that they were traveling as a group and that they have been to Macau last February 1.”

BI port operations division chief Grifton Medina said all 36 passengers were booked on the first available flight back to Phnom Penh.

The Philippine government on February 2 ordered the implementation of travel restrictions on passengers from China and its territories in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

The novel coronavirus – which originated from the Chinese City of Wuhan – has killed over 900 in mainland China as of February 10 with 40,171 confirmed infections.

A report from China’s National Health Commission showed that as of February 9, Hong Kong has 36 confirmed cases with one death, while Macau has 10 with one cured and discharged from hospital. Taiwan, on the other hand, reported 18 confirmed cases with one recovery.

Under the country’s travel ban, foreigners will not be allowed to enter the Philippines if they have traveled either to China, Macau and Hong Kong within the past 14 days.

Morente said all airlines and ships have been instructed not to board passengers covered by the ban.

He added that they are now mulling the possibility of imposing fines against airlines violating the policy.

As novel coronavirus infections continue to increase, the BI said both foreign and Filipino passengers from abroad will now be required to completely fill out and submit their arrival cards.

Morente said he instructed all immigration duty supervisors to strictly enforce the new policy so the bureau can assist health and police authorities in tracking down passengers who recently travelled to nCoV-hit areas in China.

Previously, only foreign passengers arriving at the airports are required to fill out said arrival cards while Filipinos are obliged to fill out embarkation cards when they leave the country.

The bureau also said its immigration regulation division is now strictly screening applications for extension of stay of foreign tourists to check if any of them have a travel history to China, Hongkong and Macau within 14 days from their arrival.

A visa extension applicant covered by the restriction shall be turned over to the BOQ for medical assessment, the BI said.

“We have developed a series of checking, double-checking, even triple checking to ensure that we assist our health authorities in monitoring the travelers. We do what we can to help prevent the spread of this virus,” Morente said.

UK to increase visa rights if China pursues Hong Kong security law

UNTV News   •   May 29, 2020

The United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada scolded China on Thursday (May 28) for imposing a new security law that they said would threaten freedom and breach a 1984 Sino-British agreement on the autonomy of the former colony.

British foreign minister Dominic Raab said the four countries were “deeply troubled” by the decision of China’s People’s Congress, which democracy activists in Hong Kong fear could erode its freedoms and jeopardise its role as a global financial hub.

China says the legislation will aim to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in the city but the plan, unveiled in Beijing last week, triggered the first big protests in Hong Kong for months.

Raab said Britain will give greater visa rights to British national overseas (BNO) passport holders from Hong Kong unless China suspends the proposed security laws. (Reuters)

(Production: Ben Dangerfield)

International travel still restricted under GCQ, PH Immigration bureau says

Robie de Guzman   •   May 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said on Friday that international travel restrictions at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) will still be implemented despite the easing of community quarantine protocols in Metro Manila.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that international travel restrictions imposed under the enhanced community quarantine and modified enhanced community quarantine are still in place unless these are lifted or eased by the national government.

“As a consequence, our operations at the NAIA are still downscaled and our personnel there are still on skeletal and rotational deployment,” Morente said.

“Nonetheless, we assure the public that we are always ready to resume full, normal operations in our international airports once the government decides to ease or lift these travel restrictions,” he added.

Meanwhile, Immigration acting port operations chief Grifton Medina said that BI officers at the NAIA currently serve an average of only 20 to 30 flights a day, a third of which are special flights that ferry medical supplies and other kinds of cargo into the country.

As for the passenger flights, Medina said these are mostly repatriation flights that transport returning overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and chartered sweeper flights that bring foreigners stranded here back to their home countries.

Under existing guidelines approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force Against Infectious Diseases (IATF), only OFWs, Filipino citizens and their spouses and dependents, permanent residents, and foreign diplomats are allowed to enter the country.

All foreigners can leave anytime but Filipinos are not allowed to depart unless they are permanent residents or holders of student visa in their country of destination.

Metro Manila will be placed under GCQ beginning June 1 after President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force to ease quarantine restrictions.

Under GCQ, limited operations of public transportation will be allowed to resume and more businesses are allowed to reopen.

China’s parliament approves Hong Kong national security bill

UNTV News   •   May 28, 2020

China’s National People’s Congress’ third session closed on Thursday (May 28) after parliament members voted on a proposal to implement Hong Kong’s national security legislation.

“The session made a decision to establish a legal system and enforcement mechanism for the national security of Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region,” chairman of the standing committee of the NPC, Li Zhanshu, told delegates at the closing ceremony.

“It will uphold and improve the ‘one country, two systems’ policy. It is in line with the Constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law and is in the interest of all Chinese people including Hong Kong people,” he added.

The legislation received 2,878 votes while one voted against and six abstained. The draft national security law has received international criticism with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring that Hong Kong is ‘no longer autonomous.’

Hong Kong, which has freedoms not granted in the mainland such as freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, has experienced months-long anti-government protests which sparked from a now-withdrawn extradition bill. (Reuters)

(Production: Joyce Zhou, Pak Yiu)

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