By Benjamin Lim Vergara
SPECIAL immigration counters were created at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and other ports to expeditiously process departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Bureau of Immigration (BI) Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina said the new system will ease OFWs’ travel out of the country as instructions were already given to immigration personnel to ensure that OFWs lining up for immigration processing are given utmost priority.
“Our objective is to see to it that our modern-day heroes are given all the care and courtesy that they deserve in sacrificing not only for their families but for the country as well,” Medina said.
Medina added that BI Commissioner Jaime Morente approved his recommendation to create a special team of immigration officers who will be focused on conducting pre-screening of OFWs and attend to the latter’s immigration needs at the airport.
In his memorandum, Medina ordered that designated OFW counters shall only be used exclusively by OFWs.
In case of long lines in OFW counters, members of the bureau’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) shall speed up the queues by inspecting and ensuring that the passengers’ travel requirements are complete while they are still on the line.
“It’s a matter of deploying more people to focus on OFWs,” Medina said, adding that “it’s a small move, but you’ll be surprised at the impact on easing the lines for them.”
The new directive has also instructed BI officers to “expeditiously process the documents of OFWs.”
Medina explained that normally, a passenger is processed within 45 seconds, but with the new scheme, it may decrease the processing time up to 33 percent.
The POD chief said that OFWs referred for secondary inspection due to concerns on their travel documents will likewise be prioritized and the matter resolved within 10 minutes.
He added that OFWs are also given priority at the arrival area through the installation of 21 e-gates in major airports.
Morente on his part announced that the scheme is only part of the series of improvements he plans to implement.
“The year 2019 will be all about process improvement,” he said, adding “we have studied what can do to provide better service. The e-gates and the pre-screening of OFWs are just the beginning.”