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Immigration prepares digitization of arrival cards under ‘new normal’

/ 01:18 PM May 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is preparing to implement the use of digitized arrival cards and records to limit person-to-person contact at ports and for more effective monitoring of passengers under the “new normal” amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente revealed this on Wednesday after President Rodrigo Duterte informed Congress that the bureau will soon launch an advanced passenger processing and information system and use digitized arrival cards and boarding passes for international passengers entering and exiting the country’s ports.

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“These new paperless travel control systems and procedures are just among several innovative protocols that we will be introducing under a new normal environment during this pandemic,” Morente said in a statement.

He explained that the new protocol is designed not only for the observance of physical distancing by lessening contact between immigration officers and passengers but also to facilitate contact tracing if needed.

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“While the Bureau of Quarantine collects information from arriving passengers for contact tracing, we have extended our help by providing other details that are found in our arrival cards. This information has proven to be helpful in locating persons that need to be monitored,” he said.

Morente added that the BI is discussing with different airlines the mechanics and procedures for implementing this initiative so it could become operational as soon as possible.

He said it is one of his administration’s priority projects since it would also allow port operations to more effectively monitor and screen arriving foreign nationals. He added that this system is also being used by many developed countries.

According to BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina, the digitized arrival cards will be filled out by Philippine-bound passengers at their port of origin prior to their departure for the Philippines.

“This would enable us to easily track details of a passenger as the data will be integrated and sorted in our system. Should information be needed for contact tracing, we wouldn’t have to manually dig into boxes of arrival cards that take up precious time. With one click, we would be able to provide the data faster to contact tracers,” said Medina.

He explained that the move to shift from using paper-based arrival cards aims to reduce materials being passed from a passenger to immigration officers.

Medina added the BI is likewise urging airlines to convert boarding passes into QR or bar codes in a passenger’s mobile phone or device, which will also be integrated into the bureau’s system.

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“This will create a fully paperless transaction during immigration assessment, reduce the risk of transmission, and allow for more efficient monitoring,” he said.

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/MUF

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TAGS: Bureau of Immigration, Grifton Medina, Immigration, Jaime Morente
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