Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 3, International Arrivals

This Airport Guide outlines what Philippine passport holders can expect to encounter when returning home through Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 3.

Post last updated from first-hand experience : 02 July 2022 (based on a 14 June 2022 arrival via MNL T3)
Post last updated using other information : 04 August 2022

NOTE: This Airport Guide should be used only for general planning and reference purposes. Details may change at any moment and without prior notice.

IMPORTANT: This Airport Guide has been updated to reflect pandemic-era changes. However, because of the fluid situation around health protocols and restrictions, the accuracy and completeness of the information set out here cannot be guaranteed. Please refer to the official websites and verified social media channels of airports, airlines, and other reliable sources to collect information that is both relevant and up-to-date for your specific needs.

In this post, we’ll explore the international arrivals process at Terminal 3 (T3) of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (common abbreviation: “NAIA” / IATA code: MNL) – the main airport serving Greater Manila in the Philippines.

If you’re departing from Terminal 3, please navigate to the separate Airport Guides I’ve written covering departures landside (before outbound border control) and departures airside (after outbound border control).

For a broader overview of Terminal 3, please click here to navigate back up to my portal post about the entire facility.

To learn more about the airport as a whole, please click here to view my comprehensive guide to MNL.

CONTENTS

INTENDED AUDIENCE

This guide was written from the perspective of, and primarily for, Filipino adult citizens holding Philippine passports who are returning home from an overseas holiday. This reflects my own circumstances and is the only position from which I can offer advice out of first-hand experience.

Foreign nationals, unaccompanied minors (Filipino or foreign), and other travellers with special circumstances may be subject to different arrival requirements which I am regrettably unable to advise on. Having said that, much of the information set out below – such as the layout of MNL T3’s arrivals area and the general flow of entry procedures – will be of interest to all passengers.

STEP 0: PANDEMIC-RELATED ENTRY REQUIREMENTS AND PRE-FLIGHT PREPARATIONS

Before anything else, we need to manage expectations. I will not offer any visa or immigration-related advice here, nor will I respond to enquiries on such matters. You should reach out directly to the Philippine Embassy or Consulate in your country and/or to the relevant government agencies – such as the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Quarantine – if information other than what’s presented below is required. Needless to say, extra caution must be exercised when accessing websites that purport to be those of official agencies or organisations, as scams are rife in the aftermath of the lockdowns.

Summary of pandemic-related entry requirements

The following entry and testing regulations apply to all arriving passengers from 30 May 2022 (source Bureau of Immigration, retrieved 26 June 2022).

Do bear in mind that the foregoing guidelines are in respect of pandemic-related quarantine controls. Entry requirements in respect of immigration and border control mandates – such as visas, visa exemptions, passport validity, etc. – are not covered in this guide.

One Health Pass

All arriving passengers – regardless of nationality or vaccination/testing status – are required to submit their personal information and vaccination details on the Philippine government’s One Health Pass (OHP) website. Click upon the “Register” icon on the home page to start the process. Registration is free of charge and requires no app to be installed.

WARNING: There are reports of fraudulent and misleading websites that charge fees for OHP registration. Ignore these scammers – One Health Pass is completely free of charge. Make sure that the website address you are using contains https://www.onehealthpass.com.ph/, which can be counter-checked against the links provided in reliable sources; for example, on the website of the UK’s FCDO (scroll down to the heading “If you’re fully vaccinated”).

Passengers bound for the Philippines are advised to register 48 hours prior to departure; however, the system does accept registrations entered up to 72 hours ahead. If you are required to take a pre-departure test, you should wait until the test results are available before registering on OHP. In addition to your personal travel details, you will need to upload electronic copies of your vaccination certificate and evidence of a booster dose (if applicable), as well as your pre-departure test results (unless exempt).

TRAZE contact tracing app

From 28 November 2020, all passengers were required to install the TRAZE contract tracing app before using any airport in the Philippines. This is still described as mandatory on some – but not all – airline websites, and unless an authoritative source advises to the contrary it may be best to err on the side of caution and download the app in advance.

That said, when I last arrived in the Philippines via T3 (on 14 June 2022), at no point was I ever asked to show, scan, activate, or in any way use the app. This observation is corroborated by anecdotal evidence from other travellers, both domestic and international.

Note that the TRAZE app is completely free of charge. If you come across a website or receive an email demanding fees for this service, run away – it’s a scam.

STEP 1: DISEMBARK FROM THE PLANE

From the gate, enter the hallway and follow the signs saying “Arrivals” and “Transfers” until you reach the quarantine checkpoint.

You may need to cover a fair bit of distance, especially if your plane was directed to dock at one of T3’s more remote gates. (This is often the case for smaller aircraft operated by budget carriers.) The corridor is fitted with a few moving walkways to help speed the transit, but they don’t serve its full length.

Toilets are available along the arrivals corridor. In addition, if you’re walking from one of the gates in the southern half of T3 – which includes most of the gates used by international flights – you’ll pass a small duty free shop near the very end of the hallway (just before the immigration counters).

STEP 2: QUARANTINE INSPECTION

Approaching the end of the corridor, you might observe a manned counter fitted with a thermal camera. This is meant to rapidly screen the temperature of all passengers walking past.

A little further on is the main quarantine checkpoint. At the time of my most recent arrival via T3 (on 14 June 2022), the checkpoint was manned by Coast Guard officers rather than regular immigration staff.

When I reached the desk at the end of the quarantine lane, a Coast Guard officer scanned my OHP QR code and asked for my flight number…

and that was all. With my medical/travel record pre-submitted and pre-verified via OHP, I underwent a paperless inspection with no fuss or faff.

Of course, your experience will differ if the registration was incomplete, if the files you’ve uploaded could not be verified (or if you weren’t able to upload valid files at all), or if anything else about your travel record requires closer inspection by quarantine personnel. In cases like these, you’ll need to be ready to produce copies of all required documentation upon demand.

STEP 3: IMMIGRATION

After passing through quarantine, the next step is to make one’s way through border control.

From April 2022, Philippine passport holders are no longer required to fill out arrival/disembarkation cards (source).

Separate counters are used for Filipino citizens and foreign nationals. When using a manned counter, simply present your Philippine passport to the immigration officer for inspection and stamping. (Keep your boarding pass close to hand in case it’s asked for.) Absent any special circumstances – such as a notice against your name in the immigration bureau’s records – the whole process will take mere moments.

Filipinos have the additional choice of using a bank of automated e-gates in the middle of the immigration hall. The following video (not by me!) explains how to use an e-gate to pass through border control.

In place of an inked stamp, an arrival sticker will be printed as you exit through to the other side. You must remember to collect the sticker from the printer receptacle (it’s easy to forget this bit) and affix it to a blank space in your passport.

STEP 4: BAGGAGE RECLAIM AND CUSTOMS

From border control, take an escalator down to T3’s cavernous baggage hall.

MNL isn’t as tightly run a ship as it ought to be, so you may find – as I have in the past – that your flight’s assigned baggage carousel isn’t displayed on the screens in the baggage hall. Enquire directly with the airport staff if this happens and they’ll point you to the correct one.

As at other airports, separate customs lanes have been set up for passengers with or without anything to declare. That said, when I passed through on 14 June 2022, a common set of lanes was used for all arrivals and I did not observe any inspections taking place.

Passengers are no longer routinely asked to fill out a customs declaration form, unless they’ve got goods or financial instruments to declare. A brief guide describing how to complete the form is available on the Bureau of Customs website.

STEP 5: LEAVING THE TERMINAL

Beyond the customs barrier is T3’s arrivals hall. Open to non-passengers, this area is usually one of the most heavily crowded in the entire terminal. (The crowds in the following image, taken in late January 2020, aren’t even particularly thick by local standards.)

Filipinos are a deeply family-orientated people, and it’s not uncommon for multiple generations of kin to turn up at the airport just to welcome a lone passenger. (Not so much for ordinary holidaymakers or people returning after short journeys, but more for travellers coming home after years of working overseas.) Indeed, when I arrived at T3 on 14 June 2022, the hall was absolutely teeming with people who had turned out in greater numbers than I ever recall seeing before the pandemic. One surmises that with border restrictions gradually easing all over the world, more and more Filipinos are returning home to visit their relatives for the first time in years – hence the larger “welcoming committees”.

Unless you’ve arranged to meet someone in this hall, you’ll want to plough through the masses and walk out onto the pavement…which, truth be told, can be just as crowded as indoors at the worst of times.

As shown in the following street view image, the pavement running alongside T3’s arrivals access road is divided into numbered “bays”. If you’ve asked someone to fetch you from the terminal, you might consider mentioning that you’ll wait in Bay number so-and-so – or between the columns marked Bay-this and Bay-that – thereby making it easier for them to locate you amongst the crowds.

This is also where you can find and arrange road transport to your next destination. Private vehicles – as well as cars summoned via ride-hailing apps – normally use the road closer to the building whilst public transport flows through the parallel road opposite, stopping along the centre island; however, the locations of specific queueing points and taxi ranks do change from time to time. You might enquire with airport staff or security personnel as to the whereabouts of this or that service, but please do so with caution as this could attract the interest of unauthorised touts within earshot (or staff surreptitiously working with them). My preferred method is to ignore all offers of assistance and walk with purpose along the pavement as if I knew precisely where I needed to go, whilst discreetly scanning the scene until I identify the taxi rank or queueing point – or the appropriate signage – for the service I require.

The road-based options for travelling onwards from MNL T3 to other parts of Greater Manila (and beyond) are outlined in my separate airport transportation guide.

APPENDIX: PANDEMIC-RELATED MEASURES

The wearing of face masks remains mandatory in all public spaces and all forms of public transport (whether by land, sea, or air) throughout the Philippines. Please bear in mind that their use is required by the Philippine government and is not within the discretion of terminal management or individual business establishments. Current rules stipulate that everyone must don a face mask at all times, with only the following permitted exceptions (source – see page 20):

  • Whilst eating or drinking.
  • When participating in team or individual sports within properly ventilated venues.
  • Whilst engaging in outdoor sports or exercise in settings where physical distance can be maintained.

Face shields are no longer required.

Physical distancing (or “social distancing”) remains recommended, but is not rigorously enforced in practice.

Finally, keep in mind that the loosened restrictions currently in place at the airport are contingent on the wider area (i.e., Metro Manila) remaining at Alert Level 1, the lowest tier in the government’s quarantine and transmission risk management system. The current alert classifications were announced on 19 July 2022 and will remain valid at least until 31 July 2022 (source) or until new designations are published. A spike in virus cases and hospitalisations may lead to the imposition of a higher alert level, and consequently trigger the reintroduction of tighter control measures. Stay abreast of local news and monitor developments on the IATF website (especially new resolutions) in order to anticipate what, if any, rules might be in force on the day you travel.

2 responses to “Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 3, International Arrivals

  1. Pingback: Airport Guide: Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (MNL T3) | Within striking distance·

  2. Pingback: Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 3, International Departures – Airside (2nd Edition) | Within striking distance·

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