The Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced on Monday that the number of passengers arriving in the country this December is expected to reach 1.5 million, which is slightly lower than the figure recorded prior to the pandemic in 2020.
BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco attributed the steady increase in the number of arrivals to the “aggressive” tourism campaigns of the government.
He said the number of arriving passengers this year is 79 percent higher than in 2022.
Tansingco said that the BI started recording around 1 million arrivals per month starting the second quarter of this year, compared to the 100,000 arrivals per month at the height of the pandemic.
Likewise, the BI recorded a significant increase in the number of outbound tourists with 1.1 million departures in November alone.
The figure, according to the BI, is already “very close” to the 1.3 million departures recorded in November 2019, before the pandemic.
The BI chief said the agency has beefed up its manpower and has deployed augmentation teams and mobile counters to ensure smooth operations during the holiday season.
With the expected huge number of arriving passengers, Tansingco warned immigration personnel against asking for Christmas gifts from arriving passengers.
Tansingo said BI personnel should avoid greeting arriving passengers “Merry Christmas,” as this might be construed as asking for a gift.
He said, however, that he does not see anything wrong if a BI officer would respond to a Christmas greeting from an arriving passenger.
“The standing policy is that it is prohibited to greet ‘Merry Christmas’ especially the Immigration officers assigned at the airports. But we must also understand that this is part of Filipino culture,” Tansingco said.
He added that arriving passengers might think that BI officers are rude and impolite if they do not reciprocate with the same greeting.
“We always say that Filipinos are hospitable, then if someone greets us, we will ignore the greeting just because they said it is prohibited. So, it will depend on the situation, the intention and how the greeting was made,” he added.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes