PH Immigration braces for possible upsurge of Filipinos from Middle East

Robie de Guzman   •   January 9, 2020   •   113

(FILE) Filipino household workers who were repatriated from Kuwait arrive at Manila’s international airport, Philippines, 21 February 2018. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday said it has ordered all its personnel to prepare for the possible influx of Filipino workers returning from the Middle East amid the current tensions between the United States and Iran.

In a statement, the BI said immigration personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and other international airports nationwide have been told to be ready for a possible mass repatriation of Filipinos should the US-Iran tensions escalate further.

“I have directed our port operations division to see to it that adequate manpower is available to address a possible upsurge in the number of passengers arriving from the Middle East,” Immigration commissioner Jaime Morente said.

He added that the bureau is ready to deploy additional men at the airports if necessary. Airport heads were also instructed to ensure all terminals are fully manned for a smooth processing of possible repatriates.

The bureau issued the order after the government raised Wednesday the alert level 4 in Iraq, requiring Filipino workers to evacuate. Filipinos in Iran, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were also advised to be alert of potential security threats and to coordinate with the Philippine Embassy.

The evacuation order was issued after Iran launched ballistic missile attacks against two military bases in Iraq that housed US troops, reportedly in retaliation for the death of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad airport last week.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier sent an envoy to Iran to coordinate with proper authorities and lay down ground work on the evacuation of Filipinos in case of conflict.

Although the alert level 4 in Iran and Lebanon has been downgraded to level 2 Thursday, the government said the evacuation of Filipinos in Iraq will still push through due to the unpredictability of the situation. A deployment ban to Iraq is also in effect.

PH immigration denies entry to Mongolian, Briton at NAIA

Robie de Guzman   •   January 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino Immigration officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have recently barred a Mongolian woman and a Briton from entering the Philippines.

Bureau of Immigration port operations division chief Grifton Medina said they barred the entry of a Mongolian woman who is wanted for beating her husband, and is a suspected terrorist from the United Kingdom.

The Mongolian woman, identified as 33-year old Unurjargal Altantsetseg, was intercepted last Friday upon her arrival at the Mactan, Cebu International Airport from Incheon, South Korea.

Medina said the woman is a subject of a red notice issued by the Interpol in April 2019 due to a case of assault and maltreatment that was lodged against her before a court in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.  

He added the battery case stemmed from an incident that happened on March 9, 2019, wherein Altantsetseg allegedly beat her husband during an argument, which resulted in the victim becoming blind and sustaining serious physical injuries.

Meanwhile, Medina said that a 51-year-old Briton was denied entry last week at the NAIA Terminal 3 after they received information regarding the unidentified Briton’s alleged terrorist links.

“Intelligence information received from foreign counterparts described him as being associated with a known terrorist group or being involved in terrorist activity, thus he was included in our alert list,” Medina said.

Both passengers were issued exclusion orders and booked on the first available flight to their port of origin.

PH Immigration suspends agency caught duplicating visas

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday said it has suspended the accreditation of an agency for allegedly duplicating approved visa orders.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said they found an evidence that the agency allowed some Chinese nationals to avail of the visa upon arrival (VUA) facility though fraud, misrepresentation, or false information.

“We received a report from our men stationed at the airports that they have intercepted a number of Chinese nationals who showed fake VUA orders,” Morente said in a statement.

“What these illegals do not know is that we have incorporated VUA records in our computer systems since early last year, hence visas are immediately verified upon presentation to the officer,” he added.

The Immigration chief said the agency, which was not identified pending investigation, was required to submit a written explanation on why its accreditation should not be cancelled and its cash bond should not be forfeited.

He added that they have instituted strict measures to ensure that tampering with VUAs will not happen, following concerns from the public regarding the issuance of said visas.

“Apart from real time system verification, we have also instituted the Special Operations Communications Unit (SOCU) that conducts checking and auditing of VUAs encountered at our ports,” Morente said.

“We will not tolerate those who make a mockery of our policies. We have put in safeguards to ensure that tampering will not happen, do not even think schemes like this will not be caught,” he added.

Last January 8, the Department of Justice issued Department Circular No. 001 ordering tightened procedures on the granting of VUAs to Chinese nationals.

In said order, the department shortened the allowable period of stay for VUA holders to a maximum non-extendible period of 30 days.

The visa upon arrival program was implemented by the BI following a 2017 circular from the DOJ ordering the grant of VUA to Chinese nationals.

The move, as initiated by the Department of Tourism, aimed to provide faster processing to attract more tourists and investors from China, which reports say has the world’s largest number of outbound tourists.

BI braces for heavy congestion at airports during Chinese New Year

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2020

A thermal scanner monitors all arriving passengers inside Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City, south of Manila, Philippines, 10 September 2014. EPA/DENNIS M. SABANGAN

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday said it is expecting a heavy volume of passengers in the country’s airports, especially at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), during the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

BI port operations division chief Grifton Medina said they are expecting a 10 to 15 percent increase in departures during the Chinese New Year which will be celebrated on Saturday, January 25.

“Last year we saw a 14% increase in departures, this year the increase might be more or less the same,” he said in a statement.

“We are expecting a surge of Chinese residents in the Philippines who wish to spend the Chinese New Year abroad. It may result to heavy congestion of our airports, which could be avoided if they process and pay their fees before heading to the airport,” he added.

The BI said the Philippines is host to tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants and non-immigrants. In 2018 alone, a total of 1.3 M Chinese citizens were recorded to have entered the country.

In order to avoid long queues at immigration counters in NAIA, the bureau urged foreign travelers to process their re-entry fees at any of its offices before proceeding to the airport.

Under Philippine immigration policies, foreign nationals who are registered holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas are required to pay exit and re-entry permits every time they leave the country.

Official receipts of their re-entry permit fees should be presented before they are cleared for departure.

“We expect that the surge could congest our immigration cashiers, hence we are appealing to registered aliens to pre-pay their fees to avoid the congestion,” Medina said.

The BI said that reentry fees can be paid at its main office in Manila and at immigration field, satellite and extension offices nationwide.

“The BI has almost 60 offices nationwide that may cater to this need. It’s a very quick process, which will only take a few minutes. We also have offices located in malls and other convenient locations,” he said.

“Coming to the airport with the receipt at hand makes processing faster, allowing departing aliens to avoid the rush and relax before their flight,” he added.


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