THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) has reopened its e-gates at two international airports in anticipation of the expected increase in passenger arrivals for the holiday season despite travel restrictions put in place due to Omicron , a variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid -19) virus.
Commissioner Jaime Morente said electronic gates would help avoid long queues at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Clark International Airport (CIA) in Pampanga when arrivals begin to peak in the weeks future.
“We see domestic travel rebounding bit by bit, and we see the same happening soon for the international travel sector,” Morente said.
The BI said electronic gates cut passenger processing time from the current 45 seconds to just 8 seconds.
Morente shared that on the first day of the month, 85% of arrivals were Filipinos, many of whom are OFWs and Balikbayans.
“Of the more than 6,000 arrivals during the first day of December, the majority are Filipinos. Although the numbers remain relatively low, we expect them to increase slowly as Christmas and New Year approach. “, he added.
In December last year, only around 152,000 passengers entered the country.
He said the BI has put in place several measures to prepare for the possible surge in arrivals for the holiday season.
Attorney Carlos Capulong, head of port operations at BI, revealed that Filipino passengers can now pass through the electronic gates installed in the immigration arrivals areas of all three NAIA terminals and at the CIA in Angeles City to give priority to incoming OFWs that are expected to arrive this December.
He added that Morente wanted the electronic gates reinstated to ensure returning Filipinos faster immigration processing.
Launched in August 2018, BI’s e-portals operated until March last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the office to suspend the program.