THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) is pinning its hopes to eradicate corruption activities involving its personnel on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies for its services processes in the near future.
At the “Kapihan sa Manila Bay” media forum on Wednesday, BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco acknowledged that the BI is lagging behind other countries in terms of adoption of modern technologies such as AI, electronic gates (e-gates), biometrics, interactive and advanced passenger information system and others, which could not have only made the processing of travelers faster and smoother but prevent various illegal activities involving immigration personnel.
“The modernization of Bureau of Immigration services will lessen the person-to-person contact between the passenger and immigration employee. It will also lessen the discretion of BI officers,” Tansingco explained.
“Definitely, it will reduce the opportunity to commit graft or any abuse by the immigration officer and it will also lessen the need to hire additional employees,” he added.
Tansingco said once the processing of passengers is fully automated, BI personnel would no longer have the discretion to decide who can leave the country or be allowed to enter.
“Once it is automated, there will be no more conversations and discussions. The technology, the algorithm is there. The machine will be the one to decide whether a person can leave or not,” Tansingco added.
Tansingco said the BI is eyeing to replace half of the physical immigration counters nationwide by e-gates by 2026, which will lessen the need to hire more BI personnel.
E-gates use facial recognition, biometrics scanning and other electronic security checks to process travelers.
“If we convert 50 percent of our manual counters to technology that’s automatically 50 percent less requirement for immigration officers but we will not remove our existing personnel. They will be retained, they will be given different assignments and responsibilities,” Tansingco stressed.
The BI chief recently attended a five-day biometrics forum organized by International the Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Canada last September 12 to 14 to benchmark technology trends for the Philippines.
Tansingco said his side trip to Vancouver, Canada showed that the present trend is more on borderless travel with the use of AI.
He cited Singapore’s unveiling of the automated clearance system that will allow people to depart the airport without the need to present their passports.
Tansingco said Dubai, like Singapore, is also using AI to process travelers.
In Canada, he said, they are no longer using manual e-gates and passengers can skip check-in counters through automated processing.
“They have a recent technology that the passenger would no longer pass through the check in counter…we were told it’s automated processing,” he added.
For in-bound passengers, Tansingco said advanced countries already have the so-called advanced passenger information system, which helps them prevent the entry of undesirable travelers through cross-border cooperation and intelligence sharing.
Tansingco lamented that there are only 21 e-gates at the arrival area in major international airports nationwide, majority of which are at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
These e-gates, however, are already obsolete since they are considered as first generation models, which were procured in 2016 and 2017.
Currently, Tansingco said other countries are already using third generation e-gates.
“Unfortunately we’re lagging behind but we still have time to catch up and that’s what we are going to do in the next, hopefully, next year or 2025,” Tansingco said.
Tansingco also expressed optimism that the Senate will finally pass into law the proposed Immigration Modernization Act, which will hasten the bid of the agency to modernize its services.