PH eyes subsidy for test to make travel ‘attractive’

The government is looking at subsidizing half the cost of RT-PCR tests to make travelling again more attractive during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Tuesday.

The government will partner with the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, which offers the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test at about P1,900, said Puyat. The results of the test come out in 24 hours, she said.

"We are looking at how to probably make travel vouchers. Mura na nga yung P1,900, gusto pa namin mas affordable, so we’re looking at making it, parang subsidizing 50 percent of the RT-PCR in UP-PGH," she told ANC's Headstart, adding that she will relay further details once they are settled.

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines announced on Tuesday it is offering direct nonstop flights for returning Filipinos (balikbayans) this holiday season as the government granted visa-free entry privileges to tourists falling under the Balikbayan Program starting December 7.

The flag carrier welcomed Resolution No. 85 of the Inter Agency Task Force on Infectious Disease (IATF) allowing the visa-free entry of “balikbayans.” This latest visa-free privilege also applies to foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals, provided they travel with the Filipino nationals.

"We are ready to do our part to serve our Balikbayans and perk up the Philippine tourism industry to help sustain Filipino jobs and livelihoods," the PAL management said in a statement.

Also, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reminded foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens that they cannot enter the Philippines if the Filipino or former Filipino is not traveling with them or is not in the Philippines, or they would be turned back upon their arrival at the airport.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the advisory after the bureau received a clarification from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) explaining the rationale behind the recent decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to lift the restrictions on the entry of foreigners who are immediate family members of Filipinos.

“The intent of the IATF resolution was to enable foreigners to reunite with their families in the Philippines. Thus, such intention is not served if the alien comes here when his wife or children are not in the country,” Morente said.

As a consequence, Morente stressed that arriving dependents of Filipinos or former Filipinos may be denied entry if the immigration officer finds that said Filipino or former Filipino is not traveling with them or is not in the country.

Topics: Bernadette Romulo-Puyat , Jaime Morente , Bureau of Immigration , RT-PCR tests , COVID-19
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