It’s been more than 2 years now living with COVID-19. Foreign workers in Japan chose to not go home for vacation due to some COVID-19-related international border restrictions. But it seems that this virus will not go away anytime soon, and with the economy going down due to the decrease of tourism and all other sectors that got affected by this COVID-19 situation, we have no choice but to adapt and learn to live with it.
As for international travels, Japan started to loosen up its restrictions from March 2022. With this, I decided to take a vacation to the Philippines around Golden Week.
BOOKING PLANE TICKETS (lessons learned)
I searched through Skyscanner, and immediately booked my plane tickets. But then, for some reason, AirAsia cancelled both my flights from Japan to Philippines (and vice-versa). I made the mistake of buying my tickets through some third-party booking site (GoToGate), and it has been more than 2 months now that I haven’t received my refund even though AirAsia itself said that they already refunded it to them. I tried calling them but one of the agent was just very rude (I chose the option for my call to be not recorded so maybe that’s why he thought it was okay to be rude at that time). In the end, I wasn’t able to use all the plane tickets I booked from them (including the uncancelled connecting flights to/from my hometown) since I just booked an entirely new plane tickets with new flight dates. The lesson here is to avoid any third-party booking sites as much as possible, and just book your plane tickets directly from the airline.
TRAVELLING TO THE PHILIPPINES
I always make sure to get myself updated on the necessary requirements for travel. I used PAL’s Arriving In The Philippines site to keep track on any requirement changes. Since I am a Filipino citizen and fully-vaccinated, I did not undergo any quarantine, and the requirements were just as follow:
- Proof of vaccination
◦ COVID-19 vaccination certificate for international travel provided by Japan is acceptable.
◦ If you don’t have the certificate yet, please check COVID-19 vaccination certificate site. It’s easy and it will only take less than a week to get the paper certificate, and less than an hour for the digital one (given that you already have the requirements at hand).
- Negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours or negative Antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure from the country of origin
◦ Weeks before my departure date, I booked a reservation to Kansai International Airport PCR Test Clinic which is located in Terminal 1 Building 4F (South). For a list of PCR testing facilities in Kansai International Airport (KIX), click here.
◦ I booked an Antigen test (cheaper than RT-PCR test) that was 7 hours earlier than my departure time. In the site, it says that results can be shown 1 hour 30 minutes at the earliest, but in my personal experience, it took no more than an hour.
- One Health Pass (OHP) registration with your personal information including flight details, negative RT-PCR/Antigen test results, and vaccination certificate details
◦ After I received the results from the Antigen test, I registered to One Health Pass. Make sure that all registered information are correct to avoid any issues upon arrival. After successful registration, a QR code is sent to the registered email address. You must present this QR code, whenever necessary, to ensure your compliance with the quarantine procedure of the Philippine Government.
With all the requirements completed, I fell in line to officially check-in and drop my baggage. They gave me my boarding pass and Customs Declaration Form after they checked my passport, working visa, OHP QR code, negative test results, and certificate of vaccination. I thought that Cebu Pacific is very strict with any excess on baggage weight but they didn’t even mind when I exceeded the limit by less than 2 kilograms. After baggage drop, I went inside (on the way to the boarding gate) for security checkpoint, filled up the special re-entry permit, proceeded to immigration check, and then waited for my flight.
When I arrived in the Philippines (port of entry was Manila), they just checked my vaccination certificate and QR code from OHP registration. Since there were no issues with my registered details, they just let me proceed to another line where only passport was checked. After that, I claimed my checked-in baggage, went out, and started my vacation (but this is another story).
TRAVELLING BACK TO JAPAN
If you are an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), it is required to have an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) when departing for or returning to your work overseas. I have been in Japan for 5 years now, and went back and forth more than once, but it’s my first time to get an OEC since I wasn’t technically an OFW before so I was a bit of worried whether I’ll be able to go back to Japan or not. Anyways, I am back in Japan now but aside from just getting the OEC ready, these are the other necessary requirements for border control measures when departing to Japan:
- Negative test result for COVID-19 (Nasopharyngeal Swab/ Nasal Swab/ Saliva / Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs) conducted within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of stay
◦ Japan has their own format for the certificate of negative test results so please check Valid Format of Certificate of Negative Test Result. Also, if you have any concerns or questions regarding the certificate or valid testing specimens, you may confirm with their FAQ for Confirmation of Certificate of testing for COVID-19 to check if your inquiry may have been already answered there.
◦ As for my personal experience, I printed my own certificate (click here for the PDF file) from the site above. And then, more than 48 hours before my departure time, I took an RT-PCR test with Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs as specimen for testing. After I received the test results, I just put all the information to the paper that I printed based on the details of the negative test result certificate that was given by the hospital. It didn’t have the doctor’s signature but they still accepted it.
- Submit “Pledge”, “Questionnaire” and download applications at port of entry
◦ Please check the Border Enforcement Measures Japan site for more details.
◦ I printed the Pledge (check here for the PDF file) days before my departure but it was unnecessary because the attendant handed a copy to all the passengers before the boarding time, together with the Customs Declaration Form.
◦ Install MySOS application and register all your documents as it will make the arrival procedures faster than normal. I registered my responses for my questionnaire, Pledge, vaccination certificate, and test result to the application 1 day before my departure to Japan. After all the documentation review was completed, the app screen changed to green. If the screen in your MySOS application is green, you can just show it upon arrival to use their Fast Track service.
For any updated details, please refer to Embassy of Japan in the Philippines >> Visa/Consular Services and Border measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) sites.
When I arrived at the airport (KIX), I just followed the lines where they check all the required documents, but since I already had the green screen, I just showed them the MySOS application. Still inside the airport, I spit on a vial for another test and waited for the results for less than an hour. Since I already got vaccinated until the 3rd dose and I just got another negative test results, I did not undergo any quarantine and I just headed directly to my apartment.
UPDATE: From June 1, 2022, regardless of vaccination status, all travelers from the Philippines are not required to have on-arrival test, home quarantine and other measures.