MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday said it has implemented measures for the possible influx of arriving passengers in the holiday season to avoid another surge in COVID-19 cases.
During a public briefing, BI Spokesperson Dana Sandoval said these measures include prohibiting its frontline workers from filing vacation leaves to maximize their manpower during the holidays.
“Nagkaroon din po tayo ng additional na 99 Immigration officers that are deployed po sa ating mga major airports and seaports para po makatulong sa pagpapabilis po ng pagpuproseso,” she said.
Sandoval also said that the BI has reactivated the electronic gate (e-gate) system, which requires biometric scanning, with strict enforcement of health and sanitation protocols.
“[L]ahat naman po ay in place na, nakalatag na po iyong added manpower natin, iyong technologies natin nakalatag na. So, we can say po that we are ready lalo po dito sa pagdating ng upcoming holiday season,” she said.
“Mayroon din po tayong mga assigned marshals sa mga immigration areas natin who may guide po itong ating mga passengers that are arriving o kaya naman po iyong mga aalis para po sa tamang proseso,” she added.
Proper markings for the implementation of physical distancing are also in place, Sandoval said.
She also said that 75% of the BI’s manpower nationwide has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Karamihan po sa mga iyan ay iyong mga naka-deploy po sa frontline naming,” she said.
“Iyong iba po na mga hindi pa po nababakunahan, iyan po ay ini-expect po natin na makumpleto na natin iyan, by the end of the year. Usually po, ito po iyong mga nag-aantay na lang ng kani-kanilang mga schedule o kaya naman po ay mayroon pa pong medical issues na hindi pa po sila nabibigyan ng clearance for vaccine,” she added.
Sandoval said the bureau is expecting an increase in the number of inbound passengers this holiday season, particularly returning Filipinos and overseas workers.
“Sa figures po natin, iyong first three quarters po ng taon, nakita po natin na malaki ang ibinaba ng arrivals natin, nasa 72% po as compared sa last year. So, ang laki po ng difference from the pre-pandemic period, iyong total po noong pre-pandemic period nasa 17 million po iyan,” she said.
“So, ini-expect po natin na tataas po ito. Ang figures po natin last year ng December, nasa 152,000 perhaps po nasu-surpass po nito iyong total arrivals natin for this coming month,” she added.
Sandoval said the bureau of is also preparing for the possible reopening of Philippine borders to foreign travelers, particularly those who have been fully vaccinated from countries under the “green list” or those tagged as low-risk for COVID-19.