Immigration bureau reiterates: Pinoy tourists still can’t leave PH due to COVID-19

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 6, 2020   •   350

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has reiterated that Filipino tourists are still prohibited from traveling outside the country due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente issued a statement after six Filipinos were recently barred from going to Cambodia via a special chartered flight from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The said Filipinos were reported to be tourists with no essential purpose in leaving the country.

“We want to emphasize and reiterate that Filipinos are still prohibited from leaving the country unless they are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), holders of study visas or permanent residents in the country of their destination,” Morente said.

BI Port Operations Acting Chief Grifton Medina said the six passengers were offloaded from their flight last June 29 after they informed the immigration officer that they were going to Phnom Penh merely to attend a business meeting on shrimp farming.

The Bureau also said it will continue to implement existing international travel restrictions until these are lifted or relaxed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

“These travel restrictions are only temporary and we should always bear in mind that the government implemented these measures to protect our countrymen against this deadly coronavirus,” Medina said. AAC

BI suspends online appointment, scales down operations starting Aug. 4

Marje Pelayo   •   August 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced that it is temporarily suspending its online appointment system for foreign clients at the agency’s main office in Intramuros, Manila starting Tuesday (August 4) as Metro Manila shifts to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente advises clients with confirmed appointments between August 3 and 18 to just reapply for new schedules to transact at the Bureau after the MECQ is lifted.

The suspension of the online appointment system is needed because the agency is compelled to operate at limited manpower while the MECQ is in effect, Morente said.

However, the system will remain open to foreign clients who are scheduled to leave the Philippines during the MECQ period.

Likewise, it will continue to reserve slots for departing aliens who need to secure their Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC), re-entry permit and update their extension fees.

For outbound foreigners, however, Morente said they should present confirmed flight bookings or plane tickets prior to entering the BI’s premises.

Among the transactions that are suspended at the main office include:

  • Applications for conversion to or renewal of immigrant visa;
  • Petition for recognition as Philippine citizens, including Republic Act 9225 or the dual citizenship law;
  • Downgrading of visa status;
  • Tourist visa extension;
  • Special work permits (SWP) and provisional permit to work (PPW);
  • Renewal of alien certificate of registration (ACR I-Cards); and
  • Implementation of applications for visa conversion or extension approved by the Bureau’s Board of Commissioners (BOC).

The BI further advised departing aliens under tourist visa, who overstayed in the country for not more than six months, to just pay their visa extension fees at the airport.

3 alleged human trafficking victims intercepted at NAIA – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   August 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Three people suspected of being victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment have been intercepted at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said on Monday.

In a report to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, BI port operations division acting chief Grifton Medina said the passengers were stopped last week before they could board their flights to the Middle East and Europe.

Medina said one of the victims was bound for Dubai while the two others were destined for Greece, all of them showing intentions to work illegally as undocumented workers.

According to BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU), the Dubai-bound passenger was intercepted last 25 July 2020 after the immigration officer noticed that the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) was not cleared and validated by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration – Labor Assistance Center (POEA-LAC) desk at the NAIA.

Verification with the POEA-LAC later revealed that the said OEC was tampered as it was issued to someone else and not to the said passenger.

The victim then admitted that her trip was processed by her handlers and that her documents were only given to her when she arrived at the airport.

The BI-TCEU also reported that the two Greece-bound passengers who were intercepted last Saturday, August 2, likewise presented fraudulent travel documents, including fake OECs and local employment certificates.

The bureau said that upon interview, they confessed that their documents were only handed to them at the airport. They also said they were recruited to work in Athens by their handlers to whom they each paid P95,000 in return for facilitating their trip and processing their documents.

“Thanks to the vigilance of our primary inspectors for foiling these attempts by human trafficking syndicates to sneak their victims out of the country,” Medina said.

The victims were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for investigation, according to the bureau.

BI main building’s temporary closure extended to Thursday

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Wednesday announced that its main building in Intramuros, Manila will remain closed until Thursday to give way to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing for all its employees assigned there.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the temporary closure was extended as only about half of the nearly 700 employees at the bureau’s main office were tested on Monday and Tuesday.

Morente added that the bureau’s General Services Section has also for more time to complete the disinfection and sanitation of the entire four-story building and its premises.

The BI earlier said it was suspending operations at its headquarters after three of its employees reportedly tested positive for the viral respiratory disease.

While BI’s main building is closed, Morente said the public may conduct their business in the bureau’s satellite and extension offices in Metro Manila.

“Those who have registered with our online appointment system will be notified or may inquire about their new schedule by contacting our hotlines that can be viewed at immigration.gov.ph,” he added.

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