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What to Expect when Flying Back to the Philippines
(Jovy Avisado-Estepa/ Jul 14, 2020)
Traveling in the midst of the pandemic is not an easy experience given the health risks and paper works involved. But if you're still planning to back to the Philippines and wondering about the protocols set by the government, keep on reading to make informed decisions and manage your expectations.
Things to Do Before the Flight
1. All overseas Filipinos are encouraged to register and fill out the electronic Case Investigation Form (e-CIF) to secure QR code prior scheduled arrival in NAIA. Submitting a completely filled out e-CIF is essential as the information provided will be used by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and other concerned agencies for important purposes such as swab testing and travel history tracking. Here's how:
a. Go to the Philippine Red Cross website
b. Fill out the form, then click "submit"
c. Save the QR code on your mobile device (by taking a screenshot or printing a copy)
If you are an OFW, you are also requested to fill-out the OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS) by logging on to OWWA website

2. Secure your BOQ-approved quarantine hotel booking. As all arriving passengers will undergo a mandatory swab testing at the airport, you will need a quarantine hotel to stay in while waiting for the result. If you are an OFW, you are to stay in a government-designated quarantine facility:

a. For land-based OFWs, accommodation cost will be shouldered by Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA)
b. For sea-based OFWs, cost will be shouldered by Maritime Industry Authority or by the local manning agency

3. Reconfirm your flight with the airline. Flight cancellations are a natural occurrence during the pandemic due to restrictions on maximum number of passengers allowed at airport terminals.

4. Check the official government website of the country you are departing from. There may be documentary requirements you need to prepare to be allowed exit from your destination.
The New Normal at NAIA Terminal
From the usual one hour hustle at the airport, expect to spend 3 hours to undergo strict measures of the government to all arriving passengers.

1. Implementation of health and safety measures at the airport:

a. Temperature checks at airport check points
b. Sanitizing foot baths at entry ways
c. Mandatory wearing of face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE)
d. Observing social distancing

2. Protocols to all arriving passengers:

a. Upon arriving, a BOQ officer will collect the Health Declaration Form (yellow form) provided onboard - make sure to accomplish the form prior landing.

b. Passengers will be ushered to the Orientation Area where government health policies on quarantine procedures will be discussed.
c. After orientation, everyone will be asked to go to the Verification Area to confirm travel information. Prepare to present your QR code (from e-CIF registration), passport and PhilHealth number. You will be given 6 barcode stickers with unique Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) number. Place one of the stickers on your passport. (Your PCG number will be your reference when searching for your swab results at the PCG website.)

d. Proceed to the Swab Testing Area. For OFWs, go to the Red Cross desk. Swab testing with Red Cross is free. Result will be released within 3-5 days (but there are cases that it extends up to 14 days). For non-OFWs, you have the option to get tested in a private clinic at the airport which costs at Php4,500. The result will be released within 24-48 hours. At the Red Cross desk or private clinic, present your passport and the 5 barcode stickers. You will be asked to remove your protective gears to do the test. The test personnel will do 3 swab tests: first two is through your nostrils and the third one will be through your throat.

e. Once done with the test, you can now go to the Immigration Area. Remove your protective gear as well when having your photo taken.

f. Before getting your luggage, proceed to the Department of Tourism booth to present your hotel reservation voucher. The DOT personnel will sign an affidavit which will be used as your pass in leaving the airport premises. If you weren't able to make a room reservation in advance, there's a DOT counter that will help you book a room at a quarantine hotel (you must pay for it, of course.) As there's a limited number of quarantine hotels, it is highly advised to make reservations ahead of time. You can see the list of quarantine-approved hotels here.
g. Present the DOT-signed affidavit to the airport gate personnel before you are allowed to leave the airport. You have two options to leave the terminal: via metered and coupon taxis. If you have a pre-booked transfer, approach a PCG officer for assistance. As private cars are no longer allowed at the bay area, the PCG personnel will instruct your driver on where he can fetch you. Just a word of caution though, you cannot ride the car or taxi and ask the driver to take you home. Transport groups are tasked to take passengers directly to their quarantine hotel.

Test results are said to be released within 3-5 days. But because of a great number of tests being done, anticipate results to be delayed and released within 5-7 days. Can't wait that long? You can take a second test at a hospital or private clinic which are sure to provide results within 24-48 hours. Depending on the hospital or health facility, swab test ranges from Php8,000 to Php17,000.

If you don't have that extra budget, you can monitor your results daily at the PCG website. At the homepage, just scroll down until you see the button for "Negative RT-PCR Test Result". Just click the button then search for your PCG number. If you're on the list, you will be allowed to check-out. If you have a positive result, you will receive an email notification and you will be transferred to a designated hospital for further medical management.

Hopefully this will help you mentally prepare for what lies ahead when you landed back to the Philippines. It can be quite discouraging to travel, but there is no place like home.

Disclaimer: Guidelines and protocols may change. For questions or more details, you may call the government's One Stop Shop hotline number at +63 9161019964.
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