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Updated 2 weeks ago

Like many Asian countries, the Philippines is keeping its borders closed until further notice. If you're still looking to relocate there after the COVID-19 crisis, here's what you need to know about the upcoming changes in terms of entry requirements, employment, cost of living, housing, etc.

What are the current regulations for entering the Philippines?

Like most countries, the Philippines also has strict travel restrictions in place, especially since several regions have gone to Enhanced Community Quarantine. For now, only Filipinos who have lost their job abroad, foreign spouses of Filipinos, as well as long-term visa holders (as of August 1, 2020) and officials of foreign governments and international organisations are allowed to enter the country. However, the long-term visas must be valid, and their holders must have made the necessary quarantine arrangements. In fact, they will be quarantined for a period of 14 days in a hotel designated by the government. They also have to take a mandatory COVID-19 test at their own costs. Note that the cost of PCR tests varies from one hospital or health centre to another. Besides, the number of entries into the Philippines depends on the maximum passenger capacity at the date and port of entry. In addition, tourists visas will not be issued until further notice.

Have there been any visa changes recently?

Currently, only visas that expired during the COVID-19 crisis can be renewed. Philippine immigration authorities point out that no new visas will be issued until things get better. All visas issued before the crisis have been cancelled while new visa applications have been suspended until further notice. Find out more on the Department of Foreign Affairs website. Expats who are already in the Philippines are allowed to stay as long as their visa is valid, and they comply with the current regulations in their community. Visas that expired during the ECQ period can be extended up to 30 days after the quarantine has been lifted. Regarding visas that expired before the ECQ, the fines and penalties must be settled at an Immigration office. Also, make sure to check whether you need an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) to leave the Philippines. The fees can be paid at the airport prior to your departure. Find more information on the Immigration website.

Is it easy to find work in the Philippines following the crisis?

With an unemployment rate rising from 7% before the COVID-19 crisis to 17% now, finding a job in the Philippines after the crisis is definitely not going to be an easy task. Over the past few months, more than 2.6 million people have already been fired. More job losses are expected in the coming months. According to the Department of Labour and Employment, figures could reach up to 10 million by the end of 2020. Tourism and hospitality, restaurants, personal and public services, trade, manufacturing, construction and transport are some of the most affected sectors. The hotel industry accounts for nearly 15% of the local workforce, with some 5.4 million employees. However, the government is looking to the resumption of infrastructure projects in order to create jobs for Filipinos. Negotiations are underway for leaders in the construction industry to increase their workforce by 10-20%.

How has the local healthcare system performed during the crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis came as a blow to the Philippine health system, with hospitals quickly reaching their maximum capacity due to the lack of beds and the inability to perform screening tests rapidly. While the emergency law forced private hospitals to reserve at least 30% of their beds for intensive care, the number of cases only increased in July. In some of the major areas, hospitals are currently at maximum capacity. Hospitals in Manila were the first to warn about the situation while refusing the admission of new patients. Also, due to the shortage of personal protective equipment, there was a high contamination rate among the medical staff. Testing for COVID-19 is, therefore, required upon admittance to a hospital for any reason. Moreover, most Filipinos have to bear the costs of their treatment, given the lack of funding and health insurance gaps. The pandemic also had a significant impact on the mental health of Filipinos. It's worth noting that mental healthcare is not easily accessible despite a law that was voted in 2018. However, some private clinics and non-government organisations are providing mental healthcare to patients suffering from anxiety and depression following COVID-19 via telemedicine.

Has anything changed regarding universities and schools?

In the Philippines, not all schools are reopening before August 24, 2020. However, some private schools in lower-risk areas have already started face-to-face classes since June. Several international schools have requested government authorisation to reopen. However, each class must have a maximum of 20 students, while respecting social distancing. Also, students will not be required to attend classes the whole week. Teachers have been requested to find alternative teaching methods, such as distance learning so that students can catch up during the crisis. Moreover, parents have no obligation to send their children to school if they feel uncomfortable with the situation in their region. Where distance learning is not an option, there are also many radio and TV channels dedicated to education. It's worth noting that more than 21 million students are enrolled for the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the Department of Education. Regarding universities, online classes are on since early July. However, international students will not be able to travel to the Philippines until all travel restrictions have been lifted. Distance learning arrangements have been made for all those who wish to study in the Philippines.

How is the real estate market following the crisis?

Considering the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the capital city and surrounding areas, the Philippine real estate market is currently. In fact, a 19.7% drop in supply is expected by the end of 2020. In Metro Manila, the supply rate fell from 11% in 2019 to 15.2 % currently. A 15% drop in the capital value of condominiums is also expected in the coming months, according to real estate experts. Travel restrictions and mass layoffs have a significant contribution to the falling demand. In Manila, 15,000 additional residential units will soon be available. A 5.5% drop in rent prices is also expected by the end of the year. However, there shall be a slight 1.9% rise between 2021 and 2022 when things get back to normal.

Has the cost of living changed because of the crisis in the Philippines?

Mass layoffs and cut wages in some areas are definitely having an impact on the cost of living in the Philippines despite government efforts to maintain stability. In some regions, such as Luzon, a loss of purchasing power for essential products has been noted. The loss of income also reflects on businesses and non-essential products. The drop in consumer confidence has led to a 5.0% to 10.0% decline in household consumption, namely for non-essential products like tobacco and alcoholic beverages, clothing and accessories, household appliances, furniture, as well as leisure and restaurants, etc. Besides, according to expats in the Philippines, remittances from Overseas Filippino Workers are down, which has lowered income for a percentage of the population.

Is there information relevant to expat retirees?

In most areas under GCQ (General Community Quarantine) those over 60 are not supposed to go out except for essentials such as groceries.

How about lifestyle? Have there been major changes in habits following the sanitary crisis?

According to expats in the Philippines, almost everything has changed, from public transport to social life. While buses, taxis and grabs are operational, jeepneys have been banned until further notice. As in most countries, remote work has become the new norm. In public spaces, the wearing of masks and hand sanitising are mandatory, as well as social distancing even if this means queuing up for long hours at the supermarket. In Cebu City, for example, a quarantine Pass is required to leave ones immediate neighborhood to shop, and 26 barangays are under (granular) lockdown due to outbreaks.

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