GOVERNMENT is targeting to launch a new e-arrival system in time for the holidays, a peak season for arrivals from abroad, that include balikbayans (homecoming Filipinos) and overseas Filipino workers.
In a Viber exchange, Dana Sandoval, spokesperson for the Bureau of Immigration (BI) told the BusinessMirror, “The [new] system is already in place; [we’re] just ironing out glitches before the launch,” which is being targeted for December 1. She added that this would mean integrating Immigration’s arrival system with that of the Department of Tourism, which relies on BI’s arrival and departure cards for its tourist data, and the just launched e-arrival system of the Department of Health/Bureau of Quarantine (DOH/BOQ).
The “DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) is handling the project,” she added. The current e-arrival system of DOH/BOQ replaced the One Health Pass, which was launched when the Philippines reopened its borders to fully vaccinated international travelers.
Over 2 million international travelers have arrived in the Philippines from February 10 to November 18, the bulk of whom were from the United States and South Korea.
‘Physical arrival card for foreigners only’
Sandoval, meanwhile, said only foreigner nationals are required to fill out the physical arrival card required by their agency. She stressed this in response to a Facebook post by journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug, who narrated that when she arrived recently from abroad via terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, she had to “fill up three forms: 1) eArrival card—to be filled up online. Fairly easy. No attachments of vax certificates and passports unlike the One Health Pass of old. This is a DOH requirement. 2) Upon arrival, a hard copy of an arrival form has to be filled up. Short version of the online form, a requirement of the immigration bureau. 3) A customs declaration form as well.”
Dañguilan Vitug noted the United States and Mexico, which she recently visited, “did not require arrival and customs forms.”
Several commenters posted in response that when they arrived at Naia 1 or 3, the physical Immigration arrival card wasn’t required of them.
Sandoval explained the confusion: “This has been a problem before; sometimes some airline crew might not be sure of the rules so they just ask everyone to fill it [physical arrival card] out. But the general rule is only foreigners are required [to fill it out] upon arrival.”
She added that the Bureau of Customs will still require arriving passengers to declare any taxable items in their luggage in a separate physical form, but this too, will eventually be integrated “in the third phase” of the new e-arrival system project.
Image credits: Aaron Favila/AP