MANILA -- Filipinos who wish to travel abroad either as tourists or overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are not required to show proof of financial capacity before they are allowed to leave, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) clarified on Saturday.
In a statement, BI chief Siegfred Mison said financial capacity is not a requisite before a citizen is allowed to enter or leave the country.
The right to travel is enshrined in the Constitution and enjoyed by every Filipino, he said.
Those who wish to travel abroad only need to present their complete travel documents, particularly their passport and other documents issued by a foreign country such as a tourist or working visa, before they are allowed to leave.
Mison noted that travelers are categorized according to purpose -- whether tourists, OFWs, or immigrants, among others. Requirements to be asked from them are based on their respective purposes.
He said a Filipino citizen who will travel abroad as a tourist must present complete documents such as his airplane ticket, which is usually a two-way or round trip ticket, an authentic passport, and a proof that he has a place to stay in the country where he intends to go.
According to Mison, a person may only be asked to present further proof as to the reason for his travel abroad if he appears to have a different reason other than what he has declared before an immigration official.
He said some Filipinos are asked to stay put because their intended purpose of travel is not the real reason for leaving the country or that the person is incapacitated by law.
One example is when a minor intends to leave without the proper authorization given by his guardian or parent.
When a person presents incomplete documents, immigration officials allow him to rectify these first before he is allowed to leave, the BI chief said.
Mison said the BI, in coordination with the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), has only created the necessary measures to protect Filipinos from becoming victims of human trafficking.
He said these measures include a clear set of rules under the "Guidelines on Departure Formalities for Internationally Bound Passengers," which was formulated by a technical working group in accordance with Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, and approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ). This took effect last January 2012.
Immigration officials refer to these guidelines in determining whether a person should be allowed to leave or not.
He said offloading "is not a policy but a consequence of the implementation of the Guidelines."
Mison said they only want prevent the common practice of some Filipinos to leave the country posing as tourists but with the intention of looking for work in the country where they intend to go.
He noted that many Filipinos are victimized by human traffickers or worse, abused by their employers aware of their illegal status.
He said the implementation of the said guidelines contributed to a decline in the incidents of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. The Philippines has even been elevated to Tier 2 status in the US Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, he added.
Mison appealed for understanding from Filipino travelers who may be inconvenienced by the guidelines, saying these are for the protection of citizens against human trafficking.
"We don't offload people just because we want to. It's a bitter pill that we have to swallow because we want to protect our fellow Filipinos."
"Under our BI C.A.R.E.S (Courtesy-Accountability-Responsibility-Efficiency-Service) Program, we want our countrymen to understand that there is no reason to fear us, in fact they can ask us for advise on how to legitimize their travel and we will be happy to help," he said.