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Philippines ditches pre-departure COVID-19 testing for boosted travellers

If you're arriving in the Philippines from overseas on or after 30th May 2022, you'll no longer need a pre-departure COVID-19 test, provided you're fully vaccinated and boosted.

The Philippines has become the latest country in the Asia-Pacific region to scrap its requirement for travellers to conduct a pre-departure COVID-19 test before travelling to the country, with those who’ve been vaccinated and received at least one booster dose exempt from 30th May 2022.

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The Philippines first reopened to fully vaccinated tourists post-pandemic on 10th February 2022, later joining Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane network on 4th March 2022, but has maintained a requirement for pre-departure testing (PDT) for the last three months or so.

However, the country did relax its PDT requirements, allowing a cheaper clinic ART test instead of a PCR from 11th March 2022.

This removal of PDTs will make the Philippines the eighth out of ten ASEAN nations to scrap the requirement for fully vaccinated travellers, though it is the only country so far insisting on a booster dose for test-free travel.

The requirement for travellers to hold travel insurance of at least US$35,000 covering COVID-19 treatment is also being removed.

Existing PDT requirements

Currently those arriving in the Philippines from overseas must have:

  • a PCR test within 48 hours of departure; or
  • an ART test (clinic-based, no Tele-ARTs) within 24 hours of departure.

The timing applies prior to departure at the first embarkation point in a continuous journey to the Philippines (i.e. where you do not leave the airport premises at any transit points).

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For most of our readers that has meant the best option is to have a clinic ART test within 24 hours of the departure time of their non-stop flight from Singapore.

Children aged three or below by date of birth on departure are currently exempt from the requirement to have a pre-departure test to enter the Philippines.

New PDT requirements

For those arriving in the Philippines from 30th May 2022, under a new resolution by the Inter Agency Task Force, the Philippines is lifting its pre-departure test requirement for most travellers.

  • Fully vaccinated travellers aged 18 or above entering the Philippines who have had at least one booster dose will not require a pre-departure test
  • Fully vaccinated travellers aged 12-17 entering the Philippines will not require a pre-departure test (no booster dose required)
  • Children aged 0-11 entering the Philippines with fully vaccinated and boosted parents or guardians will be exempt from pre-departure testing
(Photo: Shangri-La Boracay)

Airline travel advisories and the IATA Timatic database of travel requirements have not yet been updated to reflect the changes, but hopefully will be in time for the new regulations taking effect on 30th May.

How the Philippines compares in ASEAN

Here’s how the Philippines’ latest testing requirements (or lack thereof) look against other ASEAN neighbours, with only two out of the ten countries imposing a PDT from 30th May 2022.

Testing before travelling to ASEAN countries
based on fully vaccinated travellers departing from Singapore by air

Country Test type Test timing Exemptions
Brunei PCR
or
ART
PCR 2 days before departure
or
ART 1 day before departure
Cambodia No PDT
Indonesia No PDT
Laos No PDT
Malaysia No PDT
Myanmar PCR 72h before arrival Age 5 or below
Philippines No PDT
Singapore No PDT
Thailand No PDT
Vietnam No PDT

Following the recent removal of testing for travel to Vietnam and to Indonesia, only Brunei and Myanmar will still have PDT requirements once this change goes into effect.

Insurance requirement dropped

The Philippines has now removed its requirement for foreign travellers entering the country to hold at least US$35,000 of travel insurance, including coverage for COVID-19 treatment.

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Instead, the country now “highly encourages” tourists to have cover, but this will no longer be checked by the airline and is not part of the travel eligibility criteria.

We would also strongly encourage holding adequate travel insurance for unexpected medical expenses overseas, which can easily rack up to significant levels, especially if medical evacuation bills need to be paid.

As the Australian Smartraveller website says, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.”

Latest quarantine-free process for the Philippines

The new Philippines arrival procedure from Singapore (or any other country) is as follows.

Singapore Philippines

Eligibility & Vaccination
  • Hold one of these 157 nationalities to enter the Philippines.
  • Be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (15+ days after the second dose).
  • Booster dose is not required, but does exempt pre-departure testing for adults.
  • Register with One Health Pass prior to arrival in the Philippines.
  • Install the ‘TRAZE’ contact tracing app on your personal device before departing to the Philippines.
  • Tourist stays are limited to 30 days.
COVID-19 Test(s)
  • No testing for fully vaccinated and boosted adults, fully vaccinated 12-17 year olds, or any 0-11 year olds travelling with test-exempt parents or guardians.
Manila. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Travel to Singapore

Fully vaccinated travellers heading from the Philippines to Singapore by air will follow the latest Vaccinated Travel Framework (VTF) process, as outlined below, which is already test-free and quarantine-free.

Singapore Vaccinated Travel Framework
Process

  • Be fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, or be aged 12 or under in the current calendar year (i.e. born in 2010 or later, for 2022 arrivals)
  • Submit your SG Arrival Card (SGAC) within three days of arrival to Singapore
  • Apply for an entry visa (for visa-required nationalities only)
  • Take any flight from or via any country to Singapore and enter quarantine-free

  Complete VTF Guide



 


 

Summary

It’s fantastic to be reporting on more travel protocol simplification in the region, with the Philippines becoming the latest ASEAN member to remove pre-departure testing for most of our readers, just in time for the peak school holiday travel month in June.

Interestingly in this case a booster dose will be required to benefit from the exemption, for those aged 18 or above, though Singapore residents will almost all qualify, even with this added requirement.

The need to hold US$35,000+ of travel insurance covering COVID-19 treatment is also being ditched, but do make sure you are adequately covered for unexpected medical expenses whenever you travel overseas.

(Cover Photo: Eibner Saliba)

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