MANILA -- Soon, Filipino passengers will only need to spend seconds at immigration counters in the country's main airports, as the government will start installing "e-gates" in June, a Bureau of Immigration (BI) official told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Friday.
"Using the e-gate will only take 12-15 seconds, as passengers will only have to swipe their passports, have biometrics, and undergo facial capturing," BI port operations division chief Red MariAas said in an exclusive interview.
The inauguration would be in June at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, MariAas said.
About 18 units of the e-gate will be deployed in the country's major airports, including those in Clark, Davao, and Kalibo, and the new airport in Cebu.
"Hopefully, (all of the e-gates) will be in place by the end of the year," he said, adding the government has allotted PHP340 million for the facilities.
MariAas clarified that having e-gates doesn't mean the BI would lessen the number of immigration officers manning the airports.
"The e-gates will be used by Filipinos only. So immigration officers will still need to cater to foreigners. Moreover, the officers will be (at the airports) to look around (for security purposes)," he explained.
Meanwhile, 99 more immigration officers have been deployed at NAIA Terminals 1, 2, and 3 since Wednesday.
"They were deployed on different shifts to man the airport terminals," MariAas said.
He clarified that the additional officers were not just deployed at NAIA because of the passengers' complaints about long queues, but these are the additional plantilla items that the BI had requested from the Department of Budget and Management.
"For the past year, we have deployed 373 additional officers to complement the counter duties, including the 99 newly hired," he added.
The immigration official added that 53 more officers would be deployed soon.
MariAas noted there were shorter queues at NAIA in the past two days, but the influx of passengers this summer is anticipated.
"There is about 12-15 percent increase in the number of passengers this season. The public should expect the influx of passengers," he said.
"Our airport is not that huge, especially at Terminal 2, where you'll see that as soon as an aircraft arrives, a queue of passengers immediately follows."
He said the BI follows the 45-second rule or the international standard in the screening of passengers.
He added that passengers must also understand that immigration officers are not just there to screen documents.
"There's more to the screening of documents. They also do profiling. We're talking about national security here," he said.
For departing foreign passengers, immigration officers also do their part to prevent human trafficking, MariAas added.
"The deployment of additional officers is part of the government's answer to the passengers' needs. We work hand in hand with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) management for this," he said. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency