BI deputy spokesperson Melvin Mabulac (File photo)

MANILA – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday assured that it is ready for the influx of travelers, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who are set to come home for the holiday season.

In a Laging Handa briefing, BI deputy spokesperson Melvin Mabulac said their personnel and systems are in place to ensure the smooth flow of arriving and departing passengers at the international airports in the country.

“We can say that our staff is fully prepared for the upcoming peak season. But we cannot avoid that there may be queues due to the influx of travelers during this period, as there are many flights arriving at the same time. But you can expect that we will expeditiously process your arriving and departing passengers,” Mabulac added.

Mabulac said the BI will deploy a rapid response team to augment manpower at immigration counters to ease long queues.

He added that the BI's 'e-gates' for Filipino travelers are fully operational, which cuts immigration processing time from the usual 45 seconds to just eight seconds.

He added that BI personnel are not allowed to file leaves during the holiday season to be able to maximize the number of employees to be deployed to airports.

“We are also expecting 55 new Immigration officers, who will graduate from the Philippine Immigration Academy. They will be assigned to our airports and to different BI offices,” Mabulac said.

At the same time, he noted that the number of arrivals has yet to reach the pre-pandemic data but slowly passengers have started to arrive in the country.

“Since the easing of our travel restrictions, the number of travelers at our airports has gradually increased. Although, we have not yet returned to the number before the pandemic, but we have already seen the improvement,” Mabulac said.

“Bureau of Immigration together with the Department of Tourism invites tourists to return to our country. We hope that in the coming Christmas season, more Filipinos will return to the country to be with their loved ones,” he added.

BI probes human trafficking attempt

Meanwhile, Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco has ordered an investigation into the attempt of three trafficking victims to depart illegally by presenting spurious documents from the country.

This came after the BI received a report on a human trafficking incident that occurred last Nov. 6 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

The victims, two females, and one male, have attempted to board separate flights for Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

“We received a copy of a report that the three were intercepted by security guards and the Airport Police early Sunday morning. The trio reportedly used fake airport access passes to be able to enter the boarding gates,” the BI chief added.

Based on the report, the victims presented identification cards showing that they were employees of various establishments located inside the airport premises and passes as they attempted to evade immigration inspection by passing through the employees’ entrance.

But, upon thorough inspection by airport authorities, it was found that the IDs and passes were fake.

Also, their passports and boarding passes contained fake immigration stamps.

“One of the victims admitted that they were actually bound for Lebanon to work there without the required documentation. This is a clear case of human trafficking, and is very alarming considering that they are trying to use these schemes to try to evade strict immigration inspection,” Tansingco said.

In 2014, the same incident occurred when officers intercepted four trafficking victims who attempted to enter using the employees’ entrance. (PNA)