BI vows to improve inspection process of passengers

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2023 01:11 PM | Updated as of Mar 31 2023 01:35 PM

Travelers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 in Pasay City on March 3, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Travelers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 in Pasay City on March 3, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Bureau of Immigration on Friday vowed to improve its secondary inspection of international-bound passengers following complaints on the strict enforcement of departure formalities.

Immigration procedures are undergoing revisions following complaints from inconvenienced passengers, the justice department said on Thursday.

"We are looking at improving the manner in which our secondary inspection is being conducted," BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval told ANC's "Rundown".

"We believed that it is important to be able to relay to the passengers properly what they are undergoing and the procedures and what can be expected after," she added.

Sandoval stressed not all passengers undergo additional interview at the airport.

"It's just a small percent of passengers. I think it's around 0.6 percent of passengers that undergo secondary inspection. Only those who seem to have discrepancies or red flags during their travel," she said.

A passenger intending to travel abroad as a tourist or with a temporary visitor's visa shall undergo primary inspection wherein immigration officers have 45 seconds to ask them basic questions, such as their destination, return flight and bookings, among others.

When deemed necessary, a passenger will be referred to the Travel Control and Enforcement Unit for secondary inspection "for the purpose of protecting vulnerable victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment and other related offenses".

The passenger will then be required to accomplish the Bureau of Immigration Border Control Questionnaire.

Sandoval earlier told ABS-CBN News that immigration personnel are not allowed to inspect social media and online bank accounts of travelers.

Private documents cannot be demanded by BI staff. Personal belongings such as diploma and yearbooks do not hold value in a traveler's background, she said.

In the ANC interview, Sandoval said the agency had also conducted training for their supervisors on how to improve the situation at the airport and how frontliners are conducting inspection.

"We do not tolerate ill behavior amongst our ranks but we hope this issue and other issues that have been discussed on social media doesn't muddle the role of the Bureau of Immigration in the fight against human trafficking," she said.

Justice Undersecretary Nicholas Felix Ty said the revision of departure formalities is aimed at fighting human trafficking.

"We acknowledged there could be problems in the strict implementation of departure formalities but we hope the public can look at the big picture," he said.

"Our big picture is our fight with human trafficking," he added.

Sandoval added that human trafficking incidents happen everyday at the airport.

"We see groups of people being tricked to work abroad. They present themselves oftentimes as tourists, sometimes as groups going on a holiday with their companies, only to find out they've been recruited in this massive scam abroad," she said.

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