Thursday, 31 December 2009

New immigration cards on Jan. 1

Recto Mercene
Business Mirror

THE new arrival and departure (A/D) card for international passengers will be issued for full implementation starting tomorrow (January 1, 2010) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said the Airline Operators Council (AOC) has been given enough time to dispose of their old cards.

“The airlines have until Thursday [December 31] to use the old embarkation and disembarkation cards,” according to Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, saying that the previous document could not be read by computers in all major airports.

The cards are filled out by airline passengers when they enter or leave a country.

Libanan’s directives are being carried out by Fernando Sampol, airport operations chief for all international airports in the country.

The BI said the new immigration card is machine-readable and in compliant with international standards.

However, the AOC, through its president Ma. Lourdes Reyes at the Naia, said they had an agreement with Libanan that the new departure cards will be used for all departing passengers, while the old departure/arrival cards will remain in use for all arriving passengers until the supply lasts.

“We still have some 20 million copies of the old cards in our warehouse. We are not against the implementation of the new cards, all we want is to work on this together and not question their authority,” Reyes said, adding that during the past years the members of the AOC have shouldered the cost of printing the cards.

“During those times, the BI did not spend a single centavo as their contribution to the printing of the cards,” Reyes said, adding that the airlines distribute a total of 22 million cards each year.

Libanan emphasized that the new immigration card contains vital information on passengers’ demographics and travel characteristics, which are collated and stored.

He added that such information would enable key stakeholders in the tourism industry, including airlines, travel agencies and tour operators, to make better business decisions, formulate policies and plans, and implement programs.

“In addition, it enables the Philippines to maximize data-collection mechanism to generate statistics comparative with the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Association of Southeast Asian Nations,” the BI chief said.

Launched and implemented in June, the arrival/departure cards aim to have an accurate, timely, efficient, progressive and uniform means of recording and retrieval of the arrival and departure record of passengers.

The bureau, however, opted for partial implementation of the new card after the AOC officials requested Libanan for more time to dispose of their old card.

Patch Arbas, BI technical staff chief, said the project was the result of a memorandum of agreement that Libanan and Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano signed.

Arbas added that the agreement also provides for the joint encoding by the BI and tourism department of all the information travelers write in the cards.

Earlier, BI officials justified the use of the new cards as a valid exercise of the bureau’s function to document the arrival and departure of passengers and as chief regulator of the entry and stay of foreigners in the Philippines.

Also, the BI said the new card helps the bureau exercise its law-enforcement function, particularly in tracing the entry and departure of suspected terrorists, human traffickers, drug lords, arms smugglers and other persons involved in transnational crimes.

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