ESL stands to benefit from country’s reopening

THE country’s reopening to fully vaccinated tourists starting April 1, 2022 is seen to restore the growth of the English as Second Language (ESL) sector across the country.Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said in a statement that the relaxation of travel restrictions will enable foreign nationals to travel to the country visa-free or using their 9A visas and apply for their special study permit upon entering the country.The government’s Covid-19 Task Force has approved the entry of foreign nationals starting April 1, without the need of an Entry Exemption Document, provided they comply with applicable visa and immigration laws, rules and regulations.“Visitors who come for our education tourism—ESL in particular—stand to benefit from this development as this will grant foreign nationals who wish to study in the country an interim process to remotely secure their visas,” said Puyat.According to Puyat, local ESL schools, mainly in the country’s leading destinations for ESL such as Baguio and Cebu, have already expressed their readiness to accept foreign students, and commitment to follow the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases guidelines, as well as introduce additional measures that will ensure the safety of educators and students.During the pandemic, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has continually promoted the country as a hub for ESL and piloted initiatives such as the Master Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language to upskill and certify teachers from all over the country.Data from the Bureau of Immigration showed that special study permits (SSP) applications have continuously increased prior to the pandemic.From 22,561 in 2013, SSP applications in 2018 have reached 59,428. SSP is issued by the Bureau of Immigrations for foreigners who wish to engage in short-term study in the Philippines.The DOT clarified that under the latest resolution, foreign travelers will still be required to be fully vaccinated, and to undergo pre-departure RT-PCR or antigen testing prior to their entry.On the other hand, those who are unvaccinated and who are not compliant with applicable visa and immigration laws, rules and regulations shall be subject to exclusion proceedings.The DOT said it is optimistic that better tourism numbers could be seen in the coming months.“As we move towards a more relaxed entry regulation for foreign tourists, the DOT sees a brighter perspective for the country’s tourism industry in the near future. We will ensure that this transition will be done in careful accordance to the prescribed health and safety measures,” Puyat said. (with PR)