The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) was studying relaxing flight restrictions, Malacañang said on Monday.
In a briefing, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said there were requests from embassies to fly in foreign workers involved in the government’s flagship projects.
He added that the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Justice would determine issuing of visas not only to foreigners working in flagship projects, but to permanent residents like retirees and special investors as well.
“So, mamaya pong hapon, sa pagpapatuloy ng meeting ng IATF, magpi-presenta po sila ng datos at para magkaroon po ng desisyon kung bubuksan pa nga natin ang ating bayan sa mga dayuhan (This afternoon, the IATF-EID meeting will continue; they will present data in order that they can come up with a decision on whether we will open our country to foreigners),” Roque said.
He refused to identify the embassies that made the requests, but acknowledged that there was a sizeable number of foreigners contracted for big-ticket construction projects.
Roque added that if a policy were to be made, it must apply to all foreigners in the country and not just to one nationality.
Air travel to and from the Philippines continues to be limited because of strict quarantine rules amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Roque has said the IATF-EID was also studying allowing backriding on private motorcycles “subject to health and safety protocols.”
Allowing the return of provincial buses “depends on the state of the quarantine in the areas. Because, of course, if you allow provincial buses, there will really be cross-border movements. I could see that maybe if that will be allowed, it would first be in areas where [Covid-19] cases are low,” he added.
He also explained why modernized jeepneys were allowed to operate again in Metro Manila ahead of traditional jeepneys.
“Let me emphasize that the commuter remains the priority of the government. If there are not enough buses and modernized jeepneys, we will allow jeepneys and UV Express and even tricycles,” Roque said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mary Grace Poe called on concerned officials to continually assess the demand for public transportation as businesses slowly reopen.
“Public transportation should complement the increasing number of economic activities so as not to leave the burden on commuting workers,” she said.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services said transportation officials must
ensure a safe travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Poe earlier asked the government to meet the demand for public transport without compromising safety as Metro Manila shifted to general community quarantine and more workers returned to their jobs.
She said the government “must show it is on top of the situation” amid the pandemic.
“Clearly, the mass transportation we have now does not meet the surge of people who have come out of quarantine to begin working again to feed their families,” Poe continued.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año gave assurances that the government would address the transport needs of the general public, Sen. Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong” Go said.
“Ang hangad po natin dito ay mabigyan ng transportation options ang ating mga kababayan na ligtas at alinsunod sa health protocols habang kasalukuyang mayroon pang community quarantine measures (Our aim is to provide safe transportation options in accordance with protocols),” he added.
WITH BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO