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Biometric border security plan sought

March 12, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 260 views

SURIGAO del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel on Sunday said he wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) to draw up a biometric border security plan that would enable a modernized Bureau of Immigration (BI) to keep better track of foreigners coming in and going out of the country.

“The BI should start deploying biometric checks to verify the identities of foreign visitors and validate their entry or exit,” Pimentel, House good government and public accountability committee vice chairperson, said in a statement on Sunday.

“We would urge the DOJ to work closely with the Department of Budget and Management so that new appropriations for the BI’s biometric controls may be included in the 2024 national budget that Malacañang will submit to Congress in August,” Pimentel said.

Biometric technologies that provide automated facial, fingerprint, and/or iris recognition of foreign visitors would expedite immigration clearance and enhance travel experience, according to Pimentel, also House information and communications technology committee vice chairperson.

Pimentel said biometric facial comparison alone would reinforce border protection against imposter threats and prevent the entry or reentry of foreigners seeking to commit crimes in the country.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla himself, during his confirmation hearing, had pressed for the biometric tracking of foreign visitors, amid the involvement of several overstaying Chinese nationals in criminal activities such as human trafficking, prostitution and online gambling-related kidnapping.

Many of the overstaying Chinese nationals had arrived in the Philippines at the height of the so-called “pastillas” scam in 2019.

In exchange for bribes, the scam facilitated the entry of groups of Chinese nationals, including those with derogatory records in China, without undergoing standard immigration procedures.

Some of the Chinese nationals had previously fled China and entered the Philippines via Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and other countries.

At least 45 immigration officers implicated in the scam have since been dismissed, and are now facing corruption charges before the Sandiganbayan.

The scam was named after the favorite Filipino milk-based candy because the bribe came in rolled money wrapped in white paper to look like the confection.