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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Travel and consular services: What you need to know

Acting Consul General of Melbourne answers the most common questions at this time: how to renew Philippine passports, whether travel to the Philippines is currently allowed, and more.

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Anthony Mandap | Consular Bulletin
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ANTHONY MANDAP is the acting Philippine Consul General in Melbourne. He was Vice-Consul-General in Vancouver. Anton also worked as a journalist in Malaya and the now-defunct Times Journal. He was also Consul in San Francisco and Venezuela. He is a product of the University of the Philippines for his journalism and law degrees.

For the guidance and information of the public, the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne takes this opportunity to respond to recurrent questions on the status of travel and consular services in light of the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Please note that since conditions could change quickly, and adjustments could be made on public gathering and social distancing measures, some of the answers to these questions could vary in the coming days. The public is advised to constantly monitor developments.

I’m a Filipino citizen living in Melbourne and have an expiring passport which needs to be renewed. What can I do to renew my passport in the near future? (I was waiting until the passport facilities would be available in Melbourne).

Since passport services at the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne are not yet available at this time, citizens of the Philippines who need to have their passports renewed immediately are advised to contact either the Philippine Embassy in Canberra or the Philippine Consulate General in Sydney.

However, as an interim measure, and depending on the circumstances of the passport holder, the validity of Philippine passports may be extended by the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne.

Please note that lockdowns and travel restrictions are still in place in Australia to control the spread of the COVID-19 disease. For this reason, consular services in either the Embassy or the Consulate may not be fully operational at this time, and movement between Victoria and either ACT or New South Wales may be allowed only for essential travels.

It will be best for passport applicants to check the schedule and availability of passport services in either location by referring to their official websites or calling or emailing them ahead of the trip. It is also advisable to check Australian federal and state government websites for information on travel.

I am a dual (Filipino-Australian) citizen. Am I allowed to travel to the Philippines as I have important matters to attend to, such as family or business concerns?

Under recent guidelines released by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), dual citizens (Filipinos who hold other citizenships) may be admitted to the Philippines, provided they can show any of the following documents as proof of their Philippine citizenship: valid Philippine passport, Identification Certificate (IC), Oath of Allegiance, or Order of Approval.

In the absence of a valid Philippine passport, it is important for the traveller to use their Australian passport for the purpose of taking a flight to the Philippines, as neither the IC, not the Oath, nor the Order of Approval is valid for travel (although admissible as proof of Philippine citizenship upon arrival).

Travellers in this category are also advised to seek guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of Australia on the travel of dual nationals.

Again, as conditions could quickly change, all travellers are advised to constantly monitor both Philippine and Australian government websites for updated information.

Recent updates from the Philippines indicate that, in view of the inadequacy of or congestion at quarantine facilities, all ports of entry to the Philippines will be closed for a number of days. Travel to the Philippines will likely not resume until May 18, 2020.

As a Filipino citizen travelling back to the Philippines, do I need to quarantine on arrival, and how? What about a dual citizen?

Yes. All returning citizens of the Philippines, including dual citizens, have to undergo the same quarantine procedures, for 14 days, at designated quarantine facilities.

Under the revised procedures prescribed under Resolution No. 30 of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Infectious Diseases, dated April 29, 2020, there is no longer a distinction between overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and non-OFWs in the manner of administering quarantine upon their arrival in the Philippines.

“All arriving non-OFWs shall be managed in accordance with the updated algorithm for the triage and management of repatriated OFWs from high-risk or other jurisdictions issued by the Department of Health and the Bureau of Quarantine,” the Resolution said. This simply means that all arriving passengers will be required to undergo the same quarantine procedure.

I’m a Filipino international student and I have lost my job. How can the consulate assist me?

Filipino international students needing help are advised to contact the Philippine Consulate by email, melbourne.pcg@dfa.gov.ph, or telephone, 0426 561 217. They need to specify what form of assistance they need—be it food, accommodation, rent, employment, visa assistance, etc., —so they can be properly referred to the various community organisations and individuals offering help. They may also directly contact these organisations and individuals by Facebook or social media.

Qualified Victoria-based students may also avail themselves of one-off financial relief assistance offered by the Victorian state government. To apply, students may contact Study Melbourne.

The basic advice to Filipino students is for them to consider returning to the Philippines as soon as possible if they have no means to support themselves in Australia. The relief aid offered by agencies and community groups is limited and is likely to be insufficient to sustain them for the duration of the crisis.

I’m an Australian national and I have a visa-free privilege to travel to the Philippines. Can I travel to the Philippines at this time?

No. Under recent regulations issued by the DFA, only citizens of the Philippines and their spouses and children are allowed to travel to the Philippines at this time.

Foreign nationals, including those with valid visas or those with visa-free privileges, such as Australian citizens, are not allowed to enter the Philippines until such regulations are lifted, revoked or accordingly modified.

Is the Philippine Consulate in Melbourne open at this time?

In compliance with prevailing host government lockdown and social distancing regulations, and due to its limited office space, the Philippine Consulate has to remain physically closed, and its regular consular services suspended, until such time that said regulations have been lifted or eased.

However, clients in urgent need of assistance may contact the Consulate as follows: by email, melbourne.pcg@dfa.gov.ph, or telephone, 0426 561 217.

This arrangement is subject to corresponding modifications, depending on the easing or lifting of restrictions on public gatherings and social distancing to be announced by the federal and state governments in the coming days.

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