Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente on March 16, 2020, called on the public to stop spreading fake news amidst the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
This came after several social media posts claimed that flights from China have been continuously arriving in the country despite the implemented travel ban.
“We are not banning flights, but rather restricting people coming from areas of concern,” Morente said in a statement.
He clarified that some flights to and from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea still continue to operate as they may carry exempted classes that may fly in and out of the country.
Based on BI’s most recent travel restriction announcement, passengers from China, Macau, Hong Kong and North Gyeongsang province in South Korea are not allowed to enter the country.
However, Filipinos and their spouse or children, foreigners with Philippine permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps are exempted from the said restriction.
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) bound for mainland China except Hubei province and Wuhan City may now depart as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) last March 12, provided that they sign an undertaking stating that they are aware of the risks involved in their travel.
OFWs, permanent residents and their dependents, and student visa holders may continue to fly out to Hong Kong, Macau, and North Gyeongsang.
The BI also announced the implementation of the expanded travel restriction for Iran and Italy starting Monday.
Arriving passengers from both countries will be required to present a medical certificate issued within the last 48 hours stating that they are Covid-19-free.
Also exempted are Filipinos and their spouse or children, foreigners with permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps.
Those exempted will likewise be endorsed to the Bureau of Quarantine for the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“We are not after certain nationalities. This virus does not pick races. We are after travel patterns. Hence, Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau Nationals, South Koreans, Iranians, and Italians who have not been to the areas of concern in the last 14 days are not part of the restrictions “But any foreigner, regardless of nationality, who come from these areas of concern will not be allowed to enter,” he added.
He said flights coming from “restricted countries carry either Filipinos or those exempted from the ban”.
Spreading fake news, he said, adds to unnecessary panic.
“Stop spreading false information. Always check and double-check information you see online, and trust only official sources,” he added.
In one such viral post, netizens questioned the arrival of a Xiamen Air flight that arrived last March 10.
However, BI reported that said flight carried only four passengers: a Filipino citizen, and three permanent residents, who are all part of the exempted classes.