BI card distribution scheme at NAIA questioned

June 2, 2009 1:28 pm 

By Benjie V. Ayllon

MANILA, June 2 — The Airline Operators Council (AOC) today assailed the sudden implementation on Monday by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) of the new arrival-departure (A-D) cards scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

AOC chair Ma. Lourdes S. Reyes said that “With due respect, the AOC would like to register its vehement objection to the sudden implementation of the memorandum circular because its implementation is arbitrary, unreasonable and contrary to law.”

Air travellers at the premier airport were surprise as they tried to fill up the 10"x4" card folded into four equal parts, where they have to register their names, citizenship, residence, birthday, occupation, passport number and its date of validity.

AOC members were similarly taken aback by the sights of their passengers, groping for pens and filling up the forms at the airport arrival area which are normally distributed by the air carriers — that have supply of the cards for the next six months — and filled out by passengers while aboard the plane.

The document is usually inserted with the passport and given close scrutiny by immigration officers upon arrival before stamping the same with approval.

The process takes time that if the cards are filled out only at the port of arrival, the air travellers, most often, undergo delay to the consternation of the concerned airline.

The AOC lamented that these concerns were aired by them because some 30,000 of these cards are consumed daily by passengers in all the major airports.

Reyes said that the action taken by the BI was not published in the newspapers as required by law. She added that the AOC was not consulted by the BI in which case “hampered the smooth operations, causing undue delay and confusion among passengers, who were not duly notified within reasonable time.”

Reyes also said that although the BI earlier gave notice on its implementation, the time is “insufficient to notify more than 15 million passengers.”

“We expect some birth pains during the early implementation of the new A-D cards,” said Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, in reaction to the issue. He said that the cards are imprinted with bar codes for security reasons, which, he said, justifies the BI to print and distribute it solely.

“In line with its fight against red tape, international terrorism and other threats, the BI has implemented an innovative machine readable arrival card,” Libanan added.

He said that inspite the AOC’s objection, the bureau would continue issuing the new cards to meet the international aviation standard while providing travellers safety and comfort.

Reyes’ group, on the other hand, claimed that printing and distributing the new cards exclusively by the BI is against the amended provisions of the Philippine Immigration Act (PIA) of 1940.

“There is nothing in the immigration act that says the bureau has the sole power and authority to print or distribute arrival and departure cards,” Reyes said, adding that for the last eight years, the AOC had been printing and distributing the cards through the generosity of sponsors because the BI admits that it could not shoulder the cost of printing due to budgetary constraints.

She said that private parties who provide the AOC with the A-D cards for free have given them enough supply to last for a year.

According to Reyes, the BI claim that it is solely responsible for the printing and distribution of the A-D cards runs counter to an early memorandum circular 2008-001, which the bureau has adopted together with the Tourism Department (DoT).

She said that the circular allows the airline and travel agencies the option of printing their own A-D cards in accordance with the design and template of the bureau. (PNA)

DCT/BVA/utb

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