Strict screening of departing Pinoys ordered

August 16, 2010 10:51 am 

MANILA, Aug. 15 — Immigration officers at all international ports of entry and departure nationwide have been ordered to be doubly strict in allowing the departure of Filipino tourists as part of the intensified campaign of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) against human trafficking.

BI Officer-in-Charge Ronaldo Ledesma issued a memorandum order providing for “strict departure formalities” for departing Filipinos.

At the same time, Ledesma revoked a previous memorandum order which relaxed the BI’s policy on departing Filipino travelers.

Ledesma said that in implementing the new policy, the BI is just complying with the provisions of Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 which mandates the meticulous screening of travel papers and pre-departure requirements of traveling overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The same act, according to Ledesma, also provides for stricter departure formalities for fiancés and spouses of foreigners and requires travel clearances from social welfare authorities for traveling unaccompanied minors.

Ledesma also cited a provision in the 1987 Constitution which states that the right to travel may be restricted “in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health.”

“Thus, the individual right to travel may be regulated by the BI whenever immigration officers detect a human-trafficking situation,” he explained.

Ledesma added that aside from the anti-trafficking act, immigration officers are also duty-bound to enforce other relevant laws such as The Migrant Workers Act, The Passport Act and Revised Penal Code.

In his memorandum, Ledesma enjoined all immigration officers to be on the lookout for suspected victims of human trafficking and prevent their departure from the country.

He also ordered that a Filipino traveler should not be allowed to leave if he or she is “undocumented, improperly documented and incompletely documented.”

Atty. Arvin Santos, BI airport operations division chief, said the revoked memorandum, which was issued in 2007, directs immigration officers to allow the departure of a Filipino if he or she has a valid passport, visa and a return ticket when required.

Santos stressed that the memorandum was revoked because it is irrelevant and ran counter to the objectives of the government’s ongoing drive against human-trafficking. (PNA)

LDV/FMB

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