Bureau of Immigration halts visas on arrival for Chinese on virus fears

January 28, 2020 - 4:07 PM
Bureau of Immigration
Undated photo of people lining up before officers of the Bureau of Immigration in an airport. (The STAR/Rudy Santos)

MANILA — The Philippines stopped issuing visas on arrival to Chinese nationals on Tuesday, in a bid to keep the southeast Asian nation free of a new virus that has killed 106 and infected more than 4,500 since emerging in China in December.

There have been no confirmed cases in the country since the coronavirus outbreak began in China’s central city of Wuhan, but infections have been confirmed in Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

“We are taking this proactive measure to slow down travel, and possibly help prevent the entry of the 2019-nCoV,” Jaime Morente, the commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration, said in a statement, referring to the virus.

There is no order barring Chinese nationals from entering the Philippines, however, Morente added.

He did not say when the facility would be resumed. Chinese nationals can still apply for visas at any Philippine Embassy or consulate at their places of residence.

Health authorities are monitoring more than 11 suspected cases of the new coronavirus, they said on Tuesday.

The “visa upon arrival” facility has been offered to Chinese nationals since 2017, in an effort to boost tourism. Those eligible included investors and businessmen, athletes, delegates to international conventions and tour groups.

Chinese tourists accounted for 22% of the 7.5 million visitors to the Philippines between January and November last year, making China the second top nation of origin for international travelers to the country.

Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Tom Hogue and Clarence Fernandez