THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) said that it has significantly improved its services under the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD).
In his transition report, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente listed numerous achievements of the bureau, as well as continuing plans and programs.
“It has been a very challenging six years, as we faced many issues, scandals, and adversities,” said Morente.
“But we soldiered on because we remained steadfast in our aim to improve the BI,” he added.
Morente said that despite being rocked by these scandals, they have moved forward and continued implementing changes that would bring about a better bureau.
As a corruption deterrent at the airports, Morente said that they have implemented short and medium-term solutions to eliminate irregularities by implementing a revamp and continuous rotation of all personnel assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Airport operations were also reorganized by assigning vital units to serve as a layer of auditing and checks and balances for airport personnel.
He has likewise pushed for the long-term solution of updating the Philippine Immigration Act, which would answer salary woes, remove systemic issues, plug loopholes in policies, update fines and penalties, ensure proper division of power, and confer to the commissioner appropriate disciplinary powers, which he sees as the “strongest” deterrent against corruption.
In the report, Morente also highlighted other key projects of BI during the past six years.
The Philippines has been awarded the “Tier 1” status by the US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report for six years straight.
As a member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, the BI has continuously fought against human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
The Philippines is the first in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region to receive such a rating and is one of four in Asia.
In 2016, BI was awarded the prestigious ISO 9001:2008 certification for the entry and exit formalities at NAIA Terminals 1, 2, and 3 and was the first to be certified among the attached agencies of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The BI has successfully transitioned to the ISO 9001:2015, expanding the scope to include the extension of stay for Temporary Visitors’ Visa.
“This prestigious certification is a clear indication that the service that we offer is at par with international standards,” said Morente.
Morente added that they also aimed to modernize systems of the BI through the creation of the information systems strategic plan, installing high-definition CCTVs (closed-circuit television) cameras, linking systems to other agencies such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Interpol, setting up the BI appointment system, and the implementation of the e-gates which are “man-less” counters that allowed faster processing for arriving Filipinos.
Also highlighted in the report was the initiation of the Advance Passenger Information System, which would enable the BI to conduct advance security vetting of international travelers.
According to Morente, he prioritized personnel improvement and sought to improve employee welfare, especially during the pandemic.
BI employees received COVID-19 vaccinations as frontliners, and were provided medical support.
He added that he maximized the manpower of the BI – filled up 2,058 out of the 2,764 plantilla positions and hired 200 contractual employees for the BI’s daily operations nationwide.
For organizational improvement, Morente shared that they have established the Planning and Policy Division to oversee the plans and programs of the BI.
He has also ordered the streamlining of all BI processes to promote the “ease of doing business”.
Manuals have also been published to ensure the proper delivery of immigration services.
These improved systems, said Morente, contributed to the high income of the BI.
Before the pandemic, the BI reported its highest income of P11.9 billion, implying that more foreign nationals legalized their stay in the country.
The BI has also championed freedom of information and was cited for three straight years by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) for their efforts in providing information to the public.
Morente’s project, the Facebook Page Immigration Helpline PH, which served as a direct line of the public to the commissioner, was also a valuable tool to answer queries and concerns of the people.
The agency has also been involved in various international exchanges and activities, the most major of which is the country’s hosting of the 24th ASEAN Directors-General of Immigration Departments and Heads of Consular Affairs Divisions of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (DGICM) held virtually in 2021.
“The Bureau has also been very active in apprehending and deporting thousands of illegal aliens infringing on immigration laws,” said Morente. Many of those arrested were engaged in illegal trade, online gambling, telecommunications fraud, or were overstaying. We have also intensified our anti-terrorism efforts especially in the southern region, and have ensured that all bases are covered by assigning regional intelligence heads to monitor their respective areas for reports of illegal and undesirable aliens,” he stated.
“I hope that in the coming years, the BI will continue its path towards improvement as it moves towards its vision of providing the most excellent, efficient, effective, and innovative public service,” said Morente.