Immigration 'e-gates' at NAIA such a good idea

  • Written by Itchie Cabayan
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 325

Direct hit

THREE days ago, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) launched the much-awaited Electronic Gate System (E-Gates), assigning a total of 11 such gates at the NAIA Terminals 1 and 3 in an effort to further improve the processing of international passengers and reduce the long queues of air travelers.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Commissioner Jaime Morente and BI Deputy Commissioner Marc Red Mariñas, concurrent head of the bureau’s Port Operations Division (POD), led the launch of the P329-million project which was funded by the national government and is an initiative of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) through its Fast Travel program.

Since the project is still in its experimental phase, it will first be introduced to Filipino passengers with machine readable passports. Children, senior citizens on wheelchairs, and other handicapped travelers will have to be processed at the regular counters.

With the E-Gates in place, Mariñas said that aside from reducing human errors in passenger clearing processes, the BI also expects to cut the standard processing time for every traveler to only about eight to 15 seconds from the present average of 45 seconds.

Equipped with modern security features such as facial recognition, biometric scanning, bar code reading, and smart card recognition all rolled into one system, the modern ‘E-Gates’ will provide speedier passenger processing and enhance the BI’s ability to pinpoint or detect travelers with derogatory records, including wanted fugitives and those who are in the immigration blacklist, watchlist and hold -- departure list.

The most important feature of the project, as pointed out by Mariñas, is that it is a ‘fast travel and accurate border clearing system that will eliminate errors in passenger verification and provide the bureau with a quick system to detect persons of interest trying to cross the country’s borders.’

Marinas and his team, then Travel Control Enforcement Unit (TCEU) head of Terminal 1 Glenn Comia (now Terminal 3), TCEU Head of NAIA Terminal 3 Den Binsol (now Terminal 2) and Head Executive Assistant for Operations Fidel Mendoza, experienced the said system first-hand during a visit to Canada and Taiwan last year and worked seriously hard to have it adopted in our country, seeing the many benefits it offered.

Under the old or usual procedure, a passenger, upon arrival, queues and then presents his passport to a counter being manned by an immigration officer. After the passenger is manually processed, the same officer puts the arrival stamp on the passport and the passenger is good to go, so to speak.

With the ‘E-Gates’ in place, a passenger just goes straight to it, swipes his passport and boarding pass and once done, another door will open to capture his facial and biometrics data. On the way out, the passenger will get a sticker and put it on his passport himself.

Now if the concerned passenger has a problem such as the existence of derogatory records or defective documents, the door will not open and instead, a signal will be given out.

If and when this happens, a BI supervisor will approach the passenger and bring him to the office for manual processing. Mariñas said an immigration officer will be posted in the said ‘E-Gates’ to assist the arriving Filipino passengers with the new process.

For sure, the use of E-Gates will be highly appreciated by our returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who want to rejoin their families at the quickest possible time.

Our hats off to Mariñas, Comia, Binsol and Mendoza for this idea and pushing for its adoption. Good thinking and good work, guys!

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