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THE PHILIPPINE immigration bureau has banned its workers assigned at international airports from going on leave during the holiday season as it anticipates an increase in passenger traffic.

This would ensure the “availability of adequate personnel to serve the traveling public in anticipation of rise in passenger volume,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in an e-mailed statement.

The no-leave policy, except for medical and emergency reasons, is needed to avoid long queues at the airports before and after the Christmas and New Year holidays, he added. “This is the time of every year when the services of our immigration inspectors are most needed in the airports.”

The bureau’s port operations chief, Carlos B. Capulong, has formed a team of on-call immigration officers to augment and assist personnel rendering supervisory and primary inspection duties at the airports, Mr. Morente said.

The Bureau of Immigration said 99 newly-hired officers undergoing their on-the-job training were deployed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s main international gateway.

“While we don’t see the number of passengers rising to pre-pandemic levels, we are getting ready for an increase of Filipinos and balikbayan (returning Filipinos) who may be vacationing here during the holiday season,” Mr. Capulong was quoted as saying.

Last month, the Philippines included China — where the first case of the coronavirus was reported in late 2019 — and 45 other countries and jurisdictions in its updated green list for travel.

Fully-vaccinated passengers from the green list countries with a negative test result for coronavirus will no longer be required to go on facility-based quarantine.

With the expected increase in passenger volume in Philippine ports, the government should improve its coronavirus testing capacity and establish additional testing centers in public areas, OCTA Research Fellow Fredegusto P. David said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

Protocols for passengers must depend on the coronavirus situation of their origin, he said. It should depend “where the passenger is from, if the passenger is vaccinated or not.”

Travelers from yellow-listed countries are required to undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of a negative swab test taken on the fifth day from arrival. They will quarantine at home until the 10th day.

Latvia, which has been struggling to contain a spike in infections, is the only country put on the red list.

An updated list of country classifications is posted on the Tourism department’s site: www.philippines.travel/safetrip#inboundadvisory. Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza



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