THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) is now getting ready for an influx of arriving international passengers following the government’s decision to reopen the country to foreign tourists and ease quarantine restrictions starting February 10.
Commissioner Jaime Morente assured that the agency has sufficient manpower to handle the volume of arriving foreign tourists.
“We continue to operate at full capacity in the airports as we anticipate an increase in international flights and passengers in the next few weeks,” Morente assured.
As part of its preparation, the BI said a reserve team has been formed in case there would be a need to deploy more personnel to assist immigration frontliners.
“To cope with a sudden or unusual increase in passenger volume we have formed a reserve team of immigration officers from other BI officers who will be tapped to augment and assist our frontliners at the airport if the need arises,” BI said.
The BI chief noted that some 400 BI personnel who earlier tested positive for the virus or have gone on isolation and quarantine have already returned to work.
Most of these personnel are assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
“We are ready and we have the available manpower to address this projected increase in passenger volume in our airports,” Morente said, while noting a sudden decline in the number of immigration officers who are still infected with the Covid-19 virus.
As of January 31, BI said there are only 23 immigration officers assigned at the airports that are still recovering from Covid-19.
Out of the number, 14 are stationed at Naia, four at the Clark airport, two in Mactan, two in Kalibo, and one in Davao.
Under the latest resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), incoming fully vaccinated foreign tourists are again allowed to enter the country without a visa for 30 days.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Philippines had closed its borders to tourists, allowing only foreigners with valid Philippine visas to enter.