Philippine immigration bureau readies paperless travel control systems for new normal


Posted at May 20 2020 03:51 PM | Updated as of May 20 2020 03:52 PM

MANILA - The Philippines' immigration bureau is preparing to implement digitized arrival cards, boarding passes and other relevant records for international passengers entering and exiting the country's ports, it said Wednesday.

“These new paperless travel control systems and procedures are just among several innovative protocols that we will be introducing under a new normal environment during this pandemic,” said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.

In a statement, Morente said the new protocols will make passenger monitoring more effective, implement physical distancing, and facilitate contact tracing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) collects information from arriving passengers for contact tracing, we have extended our help by providing other details that are found in our arrival cards. These information have proven to be helpful in locating persons that need to be monitored,” Morente said.

He said his agency is coordinating with different airlines for the mechanics and procedures in implementing the said initiatives so these could become operational as soon as possible.

“This is one of our administration’s priority projects, as this would not only help in contact tracing, but would also allow our port operations to more effectively monitor and screen arriving foreign nationals,” said Morente.

BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina said the digitized arrival cards will be filled out by passengers at their port of origin prior to their departure for the Philippines. 

“This would enable us to easily track details of a passenger as the data will be integrated and sorted in our system. Should information be needed for contact tracing, we wouldn’t have to manually dig into boxes of arrival cards which take up precious time," Medina said.

"With one click, we would be able to provide the data faster to contact tracers.”

Medina added they are likewise pushing for the use by airlines of QR or bar codes in passengers' mobile phones or devices as their boarding pass, which will be integrated into the BI’s system.

“This will create a fully paperless transaction during immigration assessment, reduce the risk of transmission, and allow for more efficient monitoring,” he said.

Some 32.3 million international travelers flew in and out of the Philippines in 2019, the immigration bureau said last January.