MANILA, Philippines - The newly-approved offloading guidelines for international-bound passengers hopes to strengthen the government’s campaign against human trafficking.
"The offloading policy has contributed to our gains in the drive against trafficking, and as a result, our country was elevated to Tier 2 in the US State Department's Trafficking index. This year, we hope to be elevated to Tier 1," Vice President Jejomar Binay said in a statement.
Binay said the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) had directed a technical working group to come up with the guidelines to ensure transparency and consistency in the implementation of the offloading policy and remove any room for the exercise of personal discretion.
"We believe the new guidelines are more comprehensive since the IACAT already has a wider membership, which include non-government organizations. We made a point to incorporate all their inputs," Binay said.
Binay said IACAT will remain open to the sentiments of travelers, especially overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
"If there are still complaints stemming from an oversight in the guidelines, we will act and improve on them," said Binay, who is also IACAT’s chairman emeritus.
The new guidelines outline the requirements for the assessment of international-bound passengers based on four categories, namely: tourists; Overseas Filipino Workers; immigrants and permanent residents; and special classes of passengers.
For tourists, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is authorized to conduct a secondary inspection after the primary inspection "for the purpose of protecting vulnerable victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment and other related offenses, through the assessment of the following circumstances": age; educational attainment; and financial capability to travel.
Any passenger who will be subjected to secondary inspection will be required to accomplish the BI Border Control Questionnaire.
Travelers will automatically be subjected to secondary inspection if they fall under the following categories:
a. Travelers without financial capacity to travel escorted/accompanied by a foreigner not related.
b. Minor traveling alone or unaccompanied by either parent or legal guardian without the required travel clearance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
c. Repatriated irregular workers in which case, travel may not be allowed without the clearance from the IACAT.
d. Partners and spouses of foreign nationals intending to depart to meet and/or marry his/her fiancé without the CFO Guidance and Counseling Certificate.
e. Passengers traveling to countries with existing deployment bans, alert levels and travel advisories and those in possession of a visa to the said countries.
f. For passengers intending to depart for the second or more times who stayed abroad for more than one (1) year during its previous departure as a tourist/temporary visitor.
Binay explained the provision on secondary inspection was inserted to prevent tourist workers who are the more probable victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking from leaving the country.
In 2011, a total of 512 international-bound passengers were offloaded. Of the total, 30 were classified as minors, 316 as tourist workers and 175 as OFWs with irregularities in their documents.