While we were out in Manila last night at Megamall we wandered into the electronics area to find some speakers for my laptop. Some of the ‘specially priced’ movies we’ve been picking up have low volume so we needed something to give it a bit of a boost. While we were there we saw this in the window:
The iPad3G is a pretty neat item. I personally have no desire to get one. I still think of it as nothing more than a giant iPod Touch. Plus, it doesn’t really match up with life in the Philippines. Walking around with something like that in your hand would make you an impressive… target. Ya. People would see that and that incident where the guy got his fingers ripped off while his iPad was being stolen would seem tame by comparison.
Anyway, what prompted me to take the photo was the price tag. The iPad isn’t being sold here officially, that I know of anyway, so the hand-imported ones are selling for higher than what they should. The price on that iPad is 59,950 PHP, or approximately 1,290 USD. Electronics in the Philippines typically carry a higher price tag. I think they’re highly taxed by the government, but this is just over the top.
The next ‘toy’ that I shell out money for will probably be the iPhone 5 next year, if even that. I’ve had to rearrange my priorities since coming here and I can think of plenty of other things I could spend that money on. My trusty iPhone 3G will just have to keep chugging along for a few more years.
The process of importing cats from Singapore to the Philippines can seem like a lot of trouble, and it gave us a headache trying to figure out what is, and isn’t, necessary. The embassy website for the Philippines and the website for BAI (when it’s even up) even had some contradicting information. So, I’m writing this guide in the hopes that other people will benefit from my experience.
Picking an Airline
This is one of the most obvious things, but I thought it was worth mentioning because if you’re planning on taking pets from Singapore to the Philippines you only have two options: Singapore Airlines or Philippine Airlines. The budget carriers don’t allow pets at all.
With both Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines, pets are transported in the belly of the plane as cargo. Pets aren’t allowed in the cabin. Don’t worry. My cats unfortunately went through hell prior to take-off, but they made it through just fine and are relaxing on my bed while I type this.
The real decision here comes down to how much money you want to spend. Both airlines will get you to the Philippines. Both airlines will carry your pets. Philippine Airlines is quite a bit cheaper, though.
Picking your Carrier
That’s not my cat at the top of the photo. He’s a cat that lived in our building on the 6th floor somewhere, but came downstairs during the day to lounge around and people-watch. He was checking out my cats, who were in the carriers, just prior to our boarding a taxi for the airport.
When you take your cats on a plane, an IATA certified carrier is required. We used the Ferplast Atlas Deluxe 20 Open Top to ensure that our cats had proper ventilation during the trip. Check out any of Pet Lover’s Centre’s many locations for a wide variety of carriers. Be sure to ask if the carrier is IATA approved before buying it though or you may be disappointed later.
Before starting the export process, you’ll need to make sure your cats have been immunized. They don’t need to have been immunized more than once, so if they don’t have a booster shot that’s ok. When we imported our 3 cats to the Philippines, they had all received their first shots less than a month prior to the flight date. The shot you’ll have to get them is the standard 4-in-1 shot, which contains vaccines for feline rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia, and chlamydia psittaci. There is no specific time frame for when, in relation to your flight, these shots have to be received by your cats. You just have to have them current.
One thing I would like to suggest is that before you head to your nearest vet, do some calling around. Prices vary quite a bit in Singapore for the same veterinary services. You can use the Singapore Veterinary Association site’s list of clinics as a good starting point to find a certified vet for your needs. We lived in the East area of Singapore and found Clinic for Pets to have the cheapest rate on vaccinations, and Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Bedok) Pte Ltd to have the best rate on the rabies vaccinations and Health Certificates. (More on that later in the post).
Philippines Pet Import Permit
Within 60 days prior to your flight you’ll have to request, either in writing or by e-mail, an import permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). The BAI website has been down recently for upgrading and the email address that is listed on the Singapore embassy website is incorrect. We were actually told (after a month of waiting) that the email address listed there is not used and won’t return an invalid email address message to your inbox. To actually get a message to BAI via email you have to use the following email address: [email protected] [Commenter “Allem” alerted me to the fact that the previous email address is no longer valid, and recommended the following: [email protected]]. The point of contact at that email address is either Maynard Lagmay or Virgie Tesoro, both of which were very helpful in sending us our import permit.
The permit is usually mailed I think, but due to our circumstances (the incorrect email address) they helped us out by scanning and e-mailing the import permit to us. When you get it, it should look like this:
Republic of the Philippines Veterinary Quarantine Clearance to Import Dogs and Cats
The import permit will be valid for 60 days you don’t have to worry about making any payment until you land in the Philippines. As you can see from the example permit above, you’ll be charged 350 PHP on arrival if you have 2 cats or less, or 650 PHP if you have two cats or more.
Singapore Pet Export Permit
Within 30 days prior to your flight, you’ll have to request an export permit from Singapore’s AVA, which will cost you 50 SGD (with multiple cats allowed on one permit). This export permit is independent of the Veterinary Health Certificate and you request it (and should request it) prior to getting your Health Certificates done. Getting the export permit is as simple as filling out an online form, which you can get started on by clicking this link.
Once the page loads, scroll down until you see this:
As indicated in the image above, pick the situation that applies to you. Both options will lead to the same form, but if you’re not a foreigner you’ll have to enter your SingPass to proceed. Getting a SingPass is as simple as going to the CPF Building in Tampines. It takes about 5 minutes and you’ll leave with the SingPass in your hand.
Either way, you’ll be presented with a disclaimer that you’ll have to agree to and then you can begin filling out the form. The form is simple but it can be confusing at times. The same form is used for all situations, as well as importing and exporting, so the key is to just fill out the sections that apply to you and your situation.
Here’s an example on the first page of the form:
On the first page, as an individual exporting personal pets, the bottom details don’t apply. Don’t enter anything into the fields at the bottom of the form will fail in the end. The best thing to remember is that just because it has a red asterisk, it doesn’t mean you have to fill it out if that box doesn’t apply to you.
In the end, you should be presented with a confirmation page (step 7) that looks something like this:
The following day, you can go back to that first page where the green links are and click on “Enquire on my Application’s Status Now”, or just click here. You’ll be required to give the Application Number from the Submission Page, which comes after the Confirmation Page above, so be sure to write that down. It’ll be a long number that starts with a letter, like this one:
In the following screen you’ll be able to see if your permit is processing, approved or denied. Once it’s approved, payment is simple. You follow the link at the beginning of this post to go back to the AVA page with the green links and this time click on “Pay for my New Licence now”, or just click here. The payment is handled by a third party, but the payment should credit instantly. It did for me! They accept NETS and MasterCard. I can’t remember if I saw a Visa logo or not.
After making your payment you’ll be directed to a page where you can download your Export permit for printing.
Health Certificates & Rabies Vaccination
When you’re 7 days out from your flight, you’ll have to take the final steps to ensure your cats are ready to go.
One thing you’ll have to consider is whether or not to get your pet a rabies vaccination. This is one of the points where I got a bit confused, because some sources I read said it was required, and others didn’t. I played it safe and got my cats their rabies vaccinations. Technically, I don’t think it’s required because rabies has been eradicated in Singapore. However, there are rabies in the Philippines and if I was going to put this much effort into bringing them with me, I didn’t want them to get sick and die after arriving safely. The rabies vaccinations cost me 48 SGD apiece.
To get our Health Certificate, we went to Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre in Bedok. The vet will inspect your cat to make sure they don’t have any weird bumps, open wounds, or signs of any infectious diseases. If they appear to be in good shape, she’ll authorize the counter clerk to print up a health certificate, which she’ll sign.
Before she does that, ask her to apply Frontline to your cats and have it annotated on the health certificate. One of the requirements for importing pets into the Philippines is proof that they’ve been treated for parasites. I actually forgot to have her administer dewormer and annotate that as well, but we had some on hand to administer to the cats when we landed at NAIA, in case they asked.
Your journey isn’t over quite yet!
Importing pets to the Philippines from Singapore requires an AVA Veterinary Health Certificate, which is 23 dollars per certificate (with multiple cats allowed on one certificate). Once you have your regular health certificates, you need to scan them and then head back to the AVA’s site to request the AVA certificate. Click that link, scroll down and you’ll see the following:
Filling out this form is similar to filling out the export request form. It also offers the same method of payment. There’s just one catch. You have to pick this one up in person. The AVA Veterinary Health Certificate comes with a special watermark that only certain printers can properly reproduce. An average printer will print the form, but it will have a watermark that says “copy copy copy” in a ring, instead of the proper image. The airline you choose and Customs in the Philippines will require the original.
At some point while filling out this form you’ll see a check box that you either select or de-select to indicate that you’ll pick it up in person.
When you’re ready to go pick up your form, head to the Tanjong Pagar MRT station (EW15 on the Green Line). Exit towards Maxwell Road and you’ll find yourself at an intersection with Maxwell Road crossing just in front of you. Cross the small street just to the left of the MRT exit and follow Maxwell Road. After about one block you’ll see the Ministry of National Development across the street, with a pedestrian crossing leading right to the front doors.
Go up to the second floor, hang a right at the information desk and you’ll walk right into the office. You should leave with a form that looks like this:
Note that the watermark says “copy”, since this is a scanned copy of the original. Pretty cool how it does that!
Presenting Your Paperwork To The Airline Travel Office
No later than two days prior to your flight, you’ll have to present your completed documents to the airline office for validation. I’m not sure if Singapore Airlines has the same stipulation, but this was required by Philippine Airlines. The documents I was required to show were the Import Permit, Export Permit and the AVA Veterinary Health Certificate. The guy also asked me the weight of the cats and the dimensions and the weight of the carriers I was using. Be sure to have that information on hand. I had to waste a lot of time looking up the carrier dimensions and weight on my iPhone because I wasn’t prepared.
After the guy looks over your documents he’ll fax them to the airline office in the airport. Once that’s done you’ll be good to go.
The Philippine Airlines office I went to is located at Parklane Shopping Mall, which is close to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station:
It’s not too hard to find. There’s a Singapore Arts school on the corner of Orchard and Selegie. You just turn up the road and then look for this facade:
The entrance is located between the DBS sign and the McDonald’s sign there on the left. When you enter the mall go down the first hallway on the right and it should be the 2nd or 3rd storefront on your right. They close at 5 PM.
Once you’ve presented your documents to the airline office, you can kick back and relax. The next thing you have to do with your cats is get them ready for their trip on the day of the flight.
When you arrive at the airport and get in line to check-in, an attendant will likely usher you into the Business Class line for prompt handling of your cats. Since the documents are faxed in ahead of you, they’ll be watching for you. The clerk will weigh your cats and perform your usual check-in process, but before giving you your boarding pass you’ll have to go to the excess baggage counter to pay for your cats trip. The rate was 20.50 per kilo when we traveled on May 6th, 2010 and we paid 330 SGD total for three cats and carriers. Once you’ve paid the excess baggage fee you’ll receive your boarding pass and your cats will be wheeled away on a trolley. They won’t be placed on the conveyor belts.
After this, it’s a typical flight.
When you get to NAIA, you’ll probably rush off the plane like we did to catch up to your cats. We got through immigration and customs pretty quickly, but they were already waiting for us at the baggage claim area. The paperwork process at NAIA is extremely painless. They even came out to the claim area to take our paperwork and payment from us. Our cats were never put in a quarantine area and they didn’t make us cart them over to the desk. Everyone seemed really amused to see them.
We paid our 650 PHP and then all 5 of us walked out into the bright Filipino sunshine to start the next chapter in our lives as residents of the Philippines!
Exporting your cat(s) from Singapore to the Philippines can be a long, complicated and very expensive process but it’s also very rewarding. I think we spent upwards of 1200 SGD (including vaccination fees). I encourage anyone who has pets to take them with you when you leave Singapore. Cats aren’t emotionless beasts that should be tossed out on the street after you’re done ‘using’ them. After two years of cat ownership I know that each one of my cats has a very different personality and that each one reacts differently to different situations. If we’re gone for a while, they show that they missed us when we come back. A cat will ‘feel’ it if you abandon it in the street, the same way any other member of the family would. Love them, protect them, and definitely take them with you and they’ll be your faithful companions for many years.
The last thing we had to eat before leaving Singapore was at Swensen’s, which is an odd circumstance since I vowed never to eat there again about a month after reaching Singapore. Well, it was Swenson’s at Tampines, but you get the idea. We’d received some horrible service with our dishes showing up more than 20 minutes apart from each other and the waiter never returning to take our drink order.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot open at 2:30 AM at Changi, so our choices were pretty limited. When we saw the sign saying that Swensen’s was on the lower level and was open 24 hours a day, we resigned ourselves to another potentially disastrous experience for the sake of filling our bellies.
I wasn’t disappointed with the meal this time, though it was nothing to get excited about either.
I was a little surprised when this showed up at the table. I’d ordered a chocolate soda, but I didn’t think it would come with a big ball of chocolate ice cream on top. In the US there’s a fast food place called Sonic’s (I think that’s the one) where you can order flavored Cokes. Just out of curiosity I ordered a chocolate Coke one day and it wasn’t bad, but it was just Coke with chocolate syrup mixed in. I had expected the same thing here.
Mee goreng is something I came to love about Singapore’s food scene. That and nasi goreng. Well, I gained an appreciation for a lot of foods that come from the Muslim and Indian Muslim food stalls. Swensen’s version of mee goreng isn’t too bad. The beef was very tender, the tomatoes were flavorful, but overall the dish seemed to be lacking something. Maybe they add a lot of MSG at the hawker stalls?
My wife went with the seafood kway teow. She said it was a good choice. The soup was thicker, tastier and more filling than the usual hawker fare. I kinda wish I’d ordered one of these too.
So, Swensen’s managed to redeem themselves, literally at the last minute.
I was just thinking about the serious lack of personal space available in Singapore. It’s become even more apparent now that I’m outside the country, in the Philippines.
The Philippines can be very crowded in places but I noticed something on the third day of being here: no one had bumped into me, pushed me out of the way, tried to shove past me, or tried to walk straight at me, expecting me to move for them.
I used to think that Singaporeans walk like bumper cars because it’s just so crowded there, but I realized that the reason must be something else entirely. Is it a lack of situational awareness? Are people so pacified there that they don’t pay attention to where they’re going? Are they selfish to the point that they think everyone else will always make way for them?
A few weeks ago I was in Takashimaya and a woman walked out of a side passage, staring at something in the distance in the opposite direction from where I was approaching. She just kept walking, straight across the walkway, without a care in the world, until the side of her face was twisted around by my shoulder slamming into it. I kept going, without bothering to offer any sort of condolences for what would surely be sore chin, because it’s not my fault that she was too stupid to look where she was going.
On the other hand, here in the Philippines, people seem to naturally swerve and veer around each other without much of any problem. There are exceptions, but it really is the exception, where in Singapore it seems to be the rule.
On top of that, people in Singapore tend to want to jostle past you in stores, or step in front of you when you’re looking at something on the shelf or rack, or they try to ram you out of the way instead of letting you get off the train before they attempt to board. It’s not everyone of course. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions, rather than the rule.
So, Singapore, I implore you to sort your problem out. Pay attention to where you’re walking at least, because not everyone is going to jump out of your way and not everything will repel you gently when you walk into it because you can’t be bothered to pay attention to where you’re walking.
Monday night the AVA health certification was approved, so I immediately got online and made my payment. I didn’t want to run into any hang-ups with my card not working properly in some scanner at a government office. I didn’t have time to take chances.
I did have time to sleep in a bit though. Not intentionally of course, but I’ve been so exhausted from running around preparing for this move and from stress that I just slept for about 12 hours straight that night. When I finally got out of the house it was around 2 PM already. I went directly to Tanjong Pagar to pick up the certification.
I was expecting it to be pretty hard to find. I actually had my iPhone out with the Maps application running. It was kind of ridiculous though because there I was, walking down the street with my face glued to my phone, trying to figure out when I’d be close to the Ministry of National Development building. The thing wasn’t reading quite right because when I looked up, there it was right in front of me.
It’s a pretty massive building that’s hard to miss. I could’ve seen it from the MRT station if I wasn’t so busy trying to use my iPhone’s Maps.
The process of picking up the health certification was painless. I was in and out of the office in about 10 minutes.
It took a little more effort to find the Philippines Airlines office at Parklane Mall. You have to show them your documents at least two days before your flight so they can fax them to the terminal office and, presumably, have proper arrangements made on the aircraft.
I’d never been to, or even heard of, Parklane Mall before so I had looked it up on Google Maps before leaving the house and, once again, I was walking with my face glued to my iPhone screen. And… once again, I was standing there looking at that screen, trying to figure out where I was in relation to the mall when I looked up and was staring at the entrance. In my defense, the entrance to Parklane Mall is kind of hard to pick out from the rest of the storefronts in that area.
The entrance is between the DBS and McDonald’s signs in this picture. Hardly the average mall entrance in Singapore.
Anyhow, I wasn’t quite prepared for what all the agent wanted to know at the office there. He wanted to know the dimensions of the carrier, if it was IATA approved, its weight and the weight of my cats. He wanted to see the credit card I’d used and of course he wanted to see the documentation. He made copies of the export permit, import permit, and AVA health certification.
I wound up leaving their office at 5 minutes to 5 PM, which is when they close, so I made it, but barely.
If I could go back in time and reschedule this all, I would set it up so that my flight was on a Sunday. Having that weekend, a holiday weekend no less, in the middle of the 7 days leading up to our flight, cramped our available time for getting things done for the cats. Everything has to be done within a certain amount of time leading up to the flight. Some of the documents are only good for 7 or 10 days.
Anyway, I’m glad that stress is over. Now we just need to show up at the airport with them in the morning.
The next post you see on this blog will be published from the Philippines. Hopefully I’ll have a happy tale to tell about our cats’ first trip on an airplane. By then I’ll have all the information I need to complete my step-by-step guide on importing cats to the Philippines from Singapore as well. I’ll be publishing that on my ‘Philippines’ blog. You can find the link to it at the bottom of the sidebar. I got it going but haven’t posted much to it yet.