PH Immigration to use digitized arrival cards, boarding passes for passengers under ‘new normal’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 21, 2020   •   601

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is looking to implement the use of digitized arrival cards and records for “more effective passenger monitoring” and lessen person-to-person contact at ports amid the continuing outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement on Wednesday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the measure comes after President Rodrigo Duterte informed Congress that the bureau will soon launch an advanced passenger processing and information system, and use digitized arrival cards and boarding passes for international passengers entering and exiting the country’s ports.

“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,” Morente said.

The Immigration chief explained that the new protocols are designed not only to achieve social distancing by lessening person-to-person contact between officers and passengers but also to facilitate contact tracing, if needed.

“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,” he said.

“These information have proven to be helpful in locating persons that need to be monitored,” he added.

Morente further stated that the bureau is discussing with different airlines the mechanics and procedures for implementing the said initiatives so these could become operational as soon as possible.

He said these initiatives are among the 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 system is being used by many developed countries, which we can also adopt and use in our fight against COVID-19,” he said.

According to BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina, the digitized arrival cards will be filled out by Philippine-bound 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,” Medina said.

“Should information be needed for contact tracing, we wouldn’t have to manually dig into boxes of arrival cards which take up precious time. With one click, we would be able to provide the data faster to contact tracers,” he added.

Medina said the move to transition from paper-based arrival cards aims to reduce objects that may possibly transmit infectious agents from a passenger to the officers.

He added that the bureau is likewise urging airlines to use QR or bar codes in a passenger’s mobile device as their boarding pass, which will also 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.

US national wanted for assault in California nabbed in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   August 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – An American national wanted by authorities in California for assault and possession of a deadly weapon is now facing deportation after he was arrested in the country, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said.

In a statement on Monday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the foreigner, identified as Peter Alex Drier, 45, was nabbed during the joint operation of the bureau’s Fugitive Search Unit and the Batangas Police.

Drier was arrested last August 5 in Barangay Dayap Itaas in Laurel, Batangas at the request of the United States’ Embassy in Manila following the cancellation of his passport, he added.

“He will be deported for posing risk to public safety and security due to his profile as a fugitive from justice who used the Philippines as a refuge to evade prosecution for crimes he committed in his country,” he said.

The bureau shared that the US embassy disclosed that Drier has an outstanding arrest warrant issued by the police department in San Diego, California for failure to appear and answer an underlying charge of Assault with a deadly weapon.

It was further learned that Drier was twice arrested last year on charges of Crimes Against Person and Simple Assault by the San Diego police.

The bureau said Drier has been turned over to the temporary custody of the Batangas provincial police pending the conduct result of his COVID-19 swab test.

He will also be placed in the immigration blacklist to prevent him from re-entering the Philippines.

Duterte approves P5-B for OFW aid, repatriation

Maris Federez   •   August 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced Sunday that President Duterte has approved the release of an additional P5 billion for the repatriation and assistance to overseas Filipino workers affected by the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Dahil po mahal na mahal ni Pangulong Duterte ang ating mga bagong bayani, ibinigay po nya ang kailangan nating dagdag na pondo para sa repatriation at tulong para sa ating mga OFW,” Bello said.

In a statement issued on August 9, the Labor chief said a huge part of the said funds will be released to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) as the one that undertakes the repatriation of displaced OFWs due to lockdowns and closure of establishments overseas.

OWWA is also the one that shoulders the cost of COVID-19 tests of OFWs upon their arrival in the country, as well as their food and accommodation in hotels while awaiting test results of the test.

The agency also takes care of the OFWs transportation to their home provinces once they are tested negative for the virus.

OWWA has so far sent home close to 130,000 OFWs since May 15 via land, sea and air transport.

Other than the OWWA assistance, DOLE has been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under AKAP to pandemic-affected OFWs, both on-site and those stranded in the country, the statement said.

It added that the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) and OWWA had facilitated the processing and approval of the applications of 267,584 OFWs under the program that was meant to benefit only 250,000.

“I have directed our POLOs to accelerate the processing of the assistance so that a greater number of our OFWs will benefit soonest from the aid coming from our government,” Bello said.

The secretary had requested a P2.5 billion additional fund for the 597,469 OFWs who are requesting assistance from the government.

Bello believes that with additional funding, “more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program and even more overseas workers will be repatriated and provided with assistance.” — /mbmf

3 South Korean nationals wanted for telecom fraud nabbed in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Three South Korean nationals wanted by authorities in Seoul for their involvement in telecommunications fraud have been arrested in the country, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente identified the foreigners as Lim Yeongjun, 36; Kwom Hyeoksoo, 49; and Sim Dong Woo, 49.

Morente said the three were arrested last Tuesday, August 4 by joint operatives from the bureau’s Fugitive Search Unit (FSU) and the Philippine National Police.

They were caught inside the office of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group at the Southern Police District (SPD) headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City where they were taken earlier into custody by policemen.

Morente said the Koreans, who are all overstaying aliens, are subjects of red notices from the Interpol, and that their passports were already revoked by their government.

The BI Chief, however, stressed that the subjects cannot be deported yet as they are facing criminal charges for violating the 1988 Access Device Regulation Act and 2011 Anti-Cybercrime Law.

In fact, the suspects are currently detained at the custodial facility of the CIDG while undergoing criminal investigation prior to the filing of complaints against them in court.

“It is only after these criminal charges are resolved, and upon completion of service of sentence, if they are convicted, that we will be able to deport them,” Morente said.

Information obtained from the BI Interpol Unit revealed that the fugitives operated clandestine call centers in Manila, which they used to trick and defraud their victims.

They allegedly deceived the victims by pretending that they are agents of lending institutions, and persuading the former to repay their loans in advance in order to avail of lower interest.

Korean authorities said the three suspects amassed from their phishing activities more than 80 million won or roughly more than US$67,000, which the unsuspecting victims deposited into the suspects’ bank accounts.

“Consequently, we’re not only able to bring these criminals to justice. We also prevented them from using our country as a refuge so they could evade prosecution for their crimes. Besides, their presence here poses a threat to our people’s welfare and safety,” Morente said.

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